A vast amount of this nation’s shared natural heritage—245 million acres—is owned and administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). For many years, the agency promoted oil and gas development, mining, overgrazing, and off-road-vehicle proliferation on these lands and overlooked their many conservation values. But the perception that BLM lands are merely a treasure trove of extractive resources is fading as Americans have begun to appreciate their biological, cultural, historical, recreational, and scenic riches.
Located largely in Western states and Alaska, BLM lands represent many types of terrain—including canyon country, Arctic tundra, sage-grass steppes, mountains, and ancient forests—that serve as important habitat for fish and big game such as antelope, bison, bighorn sheep, and elk. The BLM’s National Landscape Conservation System, established by Congress in 2009, safeguards 27 million acres, but these lands are only a small fraction of the agency’s ecologically significant holdings.
Much of the BLM’s remaining undeveloped land is critical to maintaining large ecosystems and the many species that depend on wild places. These lands are threatened as never before by encroaching development and irresponsible off-road-vehicle use.
Pew’s Western Lands Initiative seeks to identify priority conservation areas across the West and ensure that they are adequately protected for all generations. These lands define who we are as a people, embodying our shared dreams of freedom and opportunity.