Time to Care: Investing in National Conservation Lands for the Future

David Feinman
|January 27, 2023

Late last year, Congress approved an historic investment for America’s National Conservation Lands in their 2023 appropriations bill, a direct result of collective efforts from supporters like you who made their voices heard about the importance of providing the Bureau of Land Management with more resources to manage our public lands.

What are National Conservation Lands?

The system of National Conservation Lands, established in 2000, is the newest designation of public land protection that contains some of the nation’s most spectacular landscapes and are managed by the largest caretaker of public lands in America, the Bureau of Land Management.

The Mojave Trails National Monument in southern California is just one of the many landscapes that make up the National Conservation Lands system. Photo: Bob Wick, Bureau of Land Management.

National Conservation Lands include National Monuments, National Conservation Areas, Wilderness and Wilderness Study Areas, Wild and Scenic Rivers, National Scenic and Historic Trails, and much more. 

While Conservation Lands Foundation and our Friends Grassroots Network work to grow this system to include landscapes deserving of long-lasting conservation, we are also working to ensure these landscapes are properly managed for the broad diversity of the values they hold, including cultural and historical resources, biodiversity, endangered species, outdoor recreation, climate mitigation, and many others. 

Show Us the Money

Since 2000, the system of National Conservation Lands has nearly doubled in size but annual funding to manage these important places has not kept pace. 

That’s where Congress has begun to help and needs to continue to do so in the years to come. 

The Bureau of Land Management needs adequate funding to ensure National Conservation Lands are properly managed for all of these values by:

  • Protecting Indigenous and other cultural resources against vandalism and other threats;
  • Restoring fish and wildlife habitat after years of neglect; and
  • Improving visitor experience and recreational infrastructure like trails and signage.

Additional funding from Congress helps land managers keep up with the record levels of outdoor recreation, which increases yearly, and ensures these landscapes are properly managed for all of their values. 

More people enjoying public lands is a good thing, as long as it’s matched with a corresponding level of staffing and resources to prevent irresponsible use and degradation such as trail damage and graffiti. 

The long-standing lack of funding for the Bureau of Land Management has had real consequences for the lands and the communities that serve as their gateways.

Vandalism of petroglyph panels and instances of illegal dumping are on the rise in vulnerable landscapes like the Caja del Rio in New Mexico.

The National Conservation Lands represent our nation’s natural, cultural, and outdoor heritage, and proper funding helps ensure these places are better managed for their essential values.

Communities Call on Congress to Care

Over the past four years, we have succeeded in engaging more than 100 national and grassroots organizations, including our Friends Grassroots Network, in direct advocacy on increasing appropriations for the Bureau of Land Management to take care of the National Conservation Lands.

Our collective impact is securing more funding for these important landscapes and successfully pushing back against efforts to cut this funding.

In 2021 and 2022, we worked closely with Colorado Representative Diana DeGette and Nevada Senator Jacky Rosen to lead advocacy efforts within the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, respectively, in support of this grassroots advocacy campaign. With their leadership and support for our collective advocacy, Congress passed a 25% increase in funding as part of the FY2023 Interior budget. We thank Rep. DeGette, Sen. Rosen, and many other conservation champions in Congress for ensuring this historic funding increase was achieved!

While this is a monumental victory for National Conservation Lands and the communities that support them, we know there’s more work to be done to ensure the Bureau of Land Management has the staffing and resources necessary to do the important work of managing our public lands.

Stay tuned for future updates on this work and how you can get involved. 

Related Links:

Record numbers of people enjoying public lands is a good thing — if we fund them (The Hill)

Conservation Lands Foundation Applauds Congress for Historic Investment in National Conservation Lands (CLF)


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About David Feinman
David Feinman is the Government Affairs Director for Conservation Lands Foundation.
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    David Feinman published this page in Latest News 2023-01-27 11:17:48 -0700
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