Ken Rait: A New Approach to Conserving Western Lands
Protecting open spaces and wild places on America's public lands for future generations: That is the mission of Pew's Campaign for America's Wilderness. During the past couple of years, the campaign has protected some remarkable places as wilderness, including Idaho's Owyhee Canyonlands, the Badlands of central Oregon, and stunning areas adjacent to Zion National Park in southern Utah.
These examples of the newest additions to our National Wilderness Preservation System are places managed by the Bureau of Land Management. The BLM oversees more of our public domain than either the National Park Service or the U.S. Forest Service—about a quarter of a billion acres, almost a third of which are in Alaska.
Some of our nation's most precious natural heritage is under BLM's purview. From Alaska's alpine tundra to the soaring red-rock cliffs of the Colorado Plateau, BLM lands are an artist's diverse palate. The lands contain incredible biological richness, as represented by the pronghorn, sage grouse, tortoise, bighorn, and other wildlife that roam the terrain. And these vast landscapes contain other priceless values—deafening silence, breathtaking vistas. These lands define Americans as a people.
Though wilderness designation is the gold standard of land protection, there are other ways to permanently safeguard our public lands. To that end, the Pew Environment Group created the Western Lands Initiative in September. The goal of this effort is to protect as much of the BLM domain as possible through the administrative process.
To accomplish this goal, we are going to need your help. BLM manages its lands for the benefit of all Americans. As part of the Western Lands Initiative's work, we will periodically alert you to pending land-use planning efforts on BLM lands and ask you to submit comments to BLM decision makers.
These land-use documents, also called resource management plans, are the means by which BLM decides how to manage its lands to preserve wilderness characteristics. This interim protection is a key step toward our long-term goal of having these special places designated as wilderness. Your important input will help guide decision makers to choices that ensure a responsible legacy of protected public lands for future generations.
Thank you for your commitment to America's wild places. We look forward to engaging you in this exciting new work.
For the Wild,
Ken Rait, Director
Western Lands Initiative