U.S. Public Lands Conservation

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Ecologists have long understood that fragmentation and loss of core habitat pose formidable threats to species survival and overall biodiversity. That’s why scientists have placed an increasing emphasis on protecting large-scale landscapes with diverse ecosystems as well as smaller parcels that connect critical areas in ways that facilitate species breeding and migration.

To help, The Pew Charitable Trusts is working to conserve important areas in America’s public lands, building support for wilderness measures in Congress, advocating for national monuments, and working with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to develop plans that better balance conservation and development. Working with local partners, we provide data and recommendations to inform action under three key U.S. laws: the Federal Land Policy Management Act, the Wilderness Act, and the Antiquities Act.

The BLM oversees 247 million acres of federal land across 11 western states and 80 million acres of remote wild lands in Alaska. Under the Federal Land Policy Management Act of 1976, BLM manages these holdings for multiple uses, including conservation. The agency identifies and protects lands with wilderness characteristics and important corridors along waterways, threatened and endangered species habitats, archeological resources, and unique scenic landscapes. The law also directs BLM to develop resource management plans to ensure that oversight of these lands reflects the latest scientific information, public interest, and agency policy.

Enacted in 1964, the Wilderness Act gives Congress the authority to add lands to the National Wilderness Preservation System, conserving for future generations some public lands where, as the act states, “the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” Since the law took effect, nearly every Congress has passed legislation to establish new designations—regardless of party control. Today, more than 109 million acres of the country’s most ecologically rich landscapes in 44 states and Puerto Rico, including 56 million acres in Alaska, is safeguarded as wilderness.

Maintaining the Antiquities Act, the nation’s landmark conservation law, is another Pew priority. The law grants a president the authority to designate as national monuments historic landmarks, prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest on federal public land. Since President Theodore Roosevelt signed it in 1906, the act has been used by 16 presidents, eight Republican and eight Democratic, to safeguard some of America’s most iconic landscapes and seascapes. Pew is working with scientists, conservation organizations, sportsmen, historic preservation groups, and others to ensure that this law can continue to be used to protect the country’s natural and cultural heritage for future generations.

Media Contact

Susan Whitmore

Director, Communications

202.540.6430