America’s Western Lands

Pew's work to protect America's public lands is designed to preserve the most important and unspoiled wild places for future generations to enjoy.

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 America's Western Lands project 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.

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  • An Ancient Landscape in Western Nevada

    Lying in the rain shadow of California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains, western Nevada’s mountain islands and desert seas offer a glimpse into an ancient world. There are soaring forested peaks and searing hot, dry lakebeds; wild lands offering something for all adventure seekers. Read More

  • The Wild Lands of Western Nevada

    Lying in the shadow of California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains, western Nevada’s mountains offer something for all adventure seekers. These lands are designated for a variety of uses ranging from mining and cattle ranching to wilderness and recreation.  Read More

  • Wyoming's Northern Red Desert

    In southwestern Wyoming is a vast and rugged landscape known locally as both the Northern Red Desert and Jack Morrow Hills. This land encompasses multicolored sandstone badlands, migrating sand dunes, expansive wetlands, rolling sagebrush bluffs, and ancient volcanic cores. It encompasses 622,000 acres, overseen by the Bureau of Land Management, and is known for vistas of wide and lonely spaces,... Read More

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Media Contact

Raviya H. Ismail

Senior Associate, Communications

202.540.6699