U.S. Public Lands and Rivers Conservation

U.S. Public Lands and Rivers Conservation
The vitality of ecosystems and economies are intertwined in the American West, where healthy lands, rivers, and wildlife provide thriving, livable communities with clean water and air, food, and other essential needs. But habitat loss, landscape fragmentation, and disruption of rivers—the leading causes of biodiversity declines worldwide—threaten to degrade the supply and quality of these critical resources even as demand for them grows with the population.

Experts have concluded that the long-term protection of biodiversity depends on conserving the surrounding landscape at a scale big enough to support key ecological and evolutionary processes, including wildlife migrations and movements and natural events such as fires and floods. However, more than 2.6 million miles of paved roads and a lack of federal or state safeguards for the nation’s free-flowing rivers—the lifeblood of any landscape—have resulted in a scarcity of sufficiently large blocks of wildlands in most parts of the United States outside Alaska.

To address this challenge, Pew is working to connect critical areas of biodiversity through the identification and preservation of important tracts of land and rivers throughout the American West. Safeguarding these places can maintain and restore productive ecosystems, and the fish and wildlife populations they support. These efforts are based on the principle of “cores and corridors,” a foundational concept in conservation biology, in which multiple smaller units of ecologically valuable land are connected through a series of protected terrestrial and aquatic linkages, allowing animals to move freely in their home ranges, during seasonal migrations, or for dispersal to new areas. And because federal and state governments share much of the responsibility for conserving wildlife and the terrestrial and riparian habitat on which it relies, Pew is working with policymakers at both levels to achieve these objectives.

In addition, Pew is continuing its nearly three-decade-long efforts to preserve core areas of biodiversity through federal land conservation by administrative actions and congressional wilderness designations. Pew also continues to advocate for maintenance of bedrock conservation policies and safeguards to ensure that wild lands and waters are freely available for future generations to enjoy.