Of the 2.27 billion acres in the United States, nearly 27 percent is held in trust for the American people and administered by the Bureau of Land Management, the Forest Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Park Service.
Each of these agencies manages the land entrusted to it for multiple purposes, usually related to conservation, recreation, and natural resource development. At a time when America’s public lands are threatened as never before by encroaching development, our challenge is how to balance these uses to best serve the American people.
Since 1990, The Pew Charitable Trusts has worked with local partners to increase the portion of public land in the United States that is conserved through legislation, administrative action, or presidential authority. Recent actions include administrative protections for spectacular wild lands in Alaska, parts of the California desert, the western habitat of greater sage-grouse, and biologically important areas along the Colorado River. Pew’s efforts also include the protection of landscapes from Maine to California through national monument status, as well as congressionally designated wilderness—our highest level of land protection—in Nevada’s White Pine County, Idaho’s Boulder-White Clouds, and California’s Eastern Sierra areas.
Current efforts aim to administratively safeguard unspoiled land in Alaska’s western and central Interior regions, including the watersheds of the state’s two longest rivers; conserve large landscapes in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, and Nevada; advance wilderness legislation for areas in a number of states, including California, Idaho, Nevada, Washington, and Tennessee; increase protection for wilderness-quality lands included in management plans for national forests in Idaho, Montana, and North Carolina; defend recently created national monuments; and maintain the Antiquities Act, the landmark conservation law that grants presidents the authority to designate national monuments.
In the spirit of President Theodore Roosevelt, who spoke of “the great central task of leaving this land even a better land for our descendants than it is for us,” Pew’s work to protect America’s public lands is designed to safeguard the most important and unspoiled wild places for future generations to enjoy.