National Conservation Lands

The National Conservation Lands (formally the National Landscape Conservation System) are the nation’s newest, permanently protected collection of some of the West’s most spectacular landscapes – 28 million acres of national public lands set aside for current and future generations because of their outstanding cultural, ecological and scientific importance. The National Conservation Lands consist of the last places where you can experience the history of the American West. From the rivers that Lewis and Clark explored, to pioneer trails, to Native American sites, the heritage and beauty of these places are safeguarded for all to see.

First established by Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt in 2000 and made permanent by an act of Congress in 2009, the National Conservation Lands join the existing National Park System and National Wildlife Refuge System as another way Americans can preserve and enjoy their history and their land. It reflects our new understanding that truly conserving natural and cultural values means protecting large landscapes – entire ecosystems and archaeological districts – more than small, isolated tracts surrounded by development. And it encourages the increasingly rare opportunity for Americans to escape crowds and create their own outdoor adventures in the wild beauty of the West, as well as providing unique resources for study to scientists and students of all ages.

The National Conservation Lands are uniquely diverse. Over 850 federally recognized areas including National Conservation Areas, National Monuments, Wilderness Areas, Wilderness Study Areas, Wild and Scenic Rivers, National Historic and Scenic Trails create a web of protected wild lands across the American West. They encompass red-rock deserts and rugged ocean coastlines, deep river canyons and broad Alaskan tundra. Many areas are remote and wild but others are surprisingly accessible. The Conservation Lands also reveal and protect our cultural legacy. They safeguard American Indian cliff dwellings and cultural sites, and preserve the remaining traces of our Nation’s historic trails and pathways.

The Conservation Lands Need Our Help

The National Conservation Lands was created to conserve and restore nationally significant landscapes that have irreplaceable cultural, ecological and scientific values for the benefit of current and future generations. Unfortunately many of these extraordinary places are being damaged by vandalism, reckless off-road vehicle use and neglect. With an average of one ranger for every 200,000 acres, currently there simply is not enough staff to protect these lands.

The Friends of Ironwood Forest are working with the Conservation Lands Foundation and many other local, regional and national partners to ensure that the Conservation Lands are:

  • Adequately funded
  • Appropriately managed
  • Includes the best of America’s unprotected public lands and waters

Bringing Landscapes to the Forefront at the BLM – The Ecological Society of America, 1 page article about the challenges and optimistic future for the National Conservation Lands, including comments by the Friends of Ironwood Forest Executive Director, Lahsha Brown.

What can you do?


The Bureau of Land Management doesn’t have enough boots on the ground to do all of the things that need to be done to protect these special places. You can donate your time to help with trail maintenance, preservation of archeological sites, remove invasive species, perform landscape restoration or work as an interpretative ranger!

More information about the National Conservation Lands from the Bureau of Land Management

BLM Tucson Field Office

Talk to your policy makers about the Conservation Lands

Let your Congressional Representatives know that you support permanent protection for our National Conservation Lands. If you don’t know who your Representative is, find out here.