America’s Western Lands

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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.

Our Work

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  • New Analytic Tool Can Aid Strategic Land Conservation

    Scientists have developed a new tool to help identify which unprotected public lands offer the best opportunities to connect safeguarded areas across the western United States. The tool’s models and maps can be used to make critical decisions on how to best link and protect vulnerable habitats across broad areas. Read More

  • Bureau of Land Management's Modern Mission Turns 40

    The year 1976 saw not only the bicentennial of the United States but also the birth of the law that brought the phrase “this land is your land” to life. The Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA), signed by President Gerald Ford on Oct. 21, 1976, was the spark that ignited change in the way the Bureau of Land Management (BLM)—the federal agency that oversees more public... Read More

  • California Desert to be Protected by Renewable Energy Plan

    The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has issued an historic and far-reaching decision balancing conservation with renewable energy development across a vast swath of the California desert. It's called the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, or DRECP, and will permanently protect significant areas of public lands in the California desert—including the Silurian Valley, Mayan Peak, and... Read More

Conservation and the BLM


Media Contact

Susannah Cernojevich

Officer, Communications