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In Focus...

New System of Land Management Celebrates Preservation
of Natural, National Treasures
The Wilderness Society

from: The Wilderness Society

It is often said that Americans have a love affair with their National Parks.

But there's a new suitor for Americans' affection for their spectacular public lands: the varied units of the National Landscape Conservation System (NLCS). These aren't just national parks under another name, though each is fully deserving of such designation. They are unique, uniquely western, uniquely American.

National Landscape Conservation System
The NLCS was created in June 2000. It's composed of some of the most beautiful, remote, wild and culturally rich areas on our western public lands. This new system includes national monuments, wild and scenic rivers, national conservation areas, national and scenic trails, wilderness areas, and wilderness study areas.

The system is under the management of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), an agency of the U.S. Department of the Interior. The BLM is the largest of our public land managers with responsibility for nearly 270 million acres, nearly all in 11 western states. The new conservation system encompasses the best of the best of these public lands. Fifteen national monuments in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, and Utah comprise the most recognizable places in the National Landscape Conservation System.

Their names are magical and reflect the magic of the places themselves: the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in the wild red rock country of southern Utah; Canyons of the Ancients National Monument in far southwestern Colorado, which holds the nation's densest concentration of archaeological sites and artifacts; and, the Upper Missouri River Breaks in eastern Montana, little changed since Lewis and Clark traversed it 200 years ago.

"Landscape" is the Key to it All
The term "landscape" is at the heart of the vision for this new system. The NLCS emphasizes protection of entire landscapes of cultural and natural values, instead of setting aside disconnected (and thus vulnerable) islands of land cut off from their surroundings. In addition to preserving specific historical and cultural values, landscape units of the NLCS are also able to protect complex desert, forest, and grassland ecosystems and entire watersheds within them.

For example, the million-plus acres of the Grand Canyon Parashant National Monument in remote northern Arizona protect watersheds for the Grand Canyon National Park. Because the NLCS areas encompass sweeping landscapes, they are also often able to safeguard entire seasonal migration routes for wildlife that depend upon them, such as eagles, cougars, deer, elk and pronghorn.

Challenge: Fulfilling the Promise
The National Landscape Conservation System is at a critical stage. The BLM is writing the first management plans for these still-new areas. Pressure builds for excessive road networks that will destroy the very wildness that allowed these places to survive and remain worthy of inclusion in the system to begin with. There is pressure, too, for other sorts of inappropriate development, including visitor facilities, that will have the same effect.

The National Landscape Conservation System is the most innovative land management system in the last 50 years; its establishment is a victory that we can all celebrate. With your enthusiastic help, and that of our WildAlert subscribers, we have the opportunity to ensure that these remote, beautiful places remain so for our children and theirs.


If You Go

The NLCS offers a more rugged wilderness experience than many national parks. There are fewer visitor centers and other amenities than we are accustomed to seeing in our national parks; some are so new there are few signs. But if you want a glimpse of the remote, wild, American west much as it was a century ago, or just want to avoid more crowded destinations, the NLCS is a tremendous option.

The National Landscape Conservation System has the potential to become as fundamental to conservation, travel, and American culture as the National Park System. We hope that, as you plan your next vacation, you will consider a natural area within the NLCS as a possible destination. We know that as more people visit these areas and see their unique beauty, more will be eager to help protect them.


For More Information
You can learn more about the National Landscape Conservation System at

And you can learn more about our newest national monuments at


Words to Inspire
"What a country chooses to save is what a country chooses to say about itself."
--Mollie Beatty


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