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 Exhibits: The Lands: National Landscape Conservation System


National Landscape Conservation System
View
Blister Cave near Pillar Butte, Craters of the Moon National Monument

Blister Cave near Pillar Butte, Craters of the Moon National Monument
Courtesy Shoshone Field Office, Upper Snake River District, BLM ID

View
Steamboat Butte, a famous landmark on the Upper Missouri

Steamboat Butte, a famous landmark on the Upper Missouri
Courtesy Bureau of Land Management, Montana State Office

View
Petroglyphs at Agua Fria National Monument

Petroglyphs at Agua Fria National Monument
Courtesy Bureau of Land Management, Arizona State Office

The 264 million acres of BLM-managed public lands represent a priceless legacy and a long-term investment for the American people. Prized originally for their commodity value, the public lands today offer much more: unparalleled recreation opportunities and, in an increasingly crowded West, one of the last guarantees of open space, a signature element of this region where the majority of public lands are located.

In June 2000, the BLM responded to growing concern over the loss of open space by creating the National Landscape Conservation System (NLCS). The NLCS brings into a single system some of the BLM's premier designations. By putting these lands into an organized system, the BLM hopes to increase public awareness of these areas' scientific, cultural, educational, ecological and other values. The NLCS consists of the following:

  • National Conservation Areas

  • National Monuments

  • Wilderness Areas

  • Wilderness Study Areas

  • Wild and Scenic Rivers; and

  • National Historic and Scenic Trails



While the NLCS is new, the idea of managing special BLM lands for conservation is not. Congress designated the California's King Range National Conservation Area (NCA) in 1970, and the Steese NCA in Alaska is over twenty years old. In 1996, the BLM was entrusted with management responsibility for its first National Monument with designation of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah. Since then, the agency's role in managing ecologically significant areas has grown significantly: the BLM now manages 14 National Conservation Areas and 15 National Monuments.

All units in the NLCS comprise lands that were already under Federal management. In addition, the NLCS does not create any new legal protections. Although the BLM is continuing to manage the units at the local level, the NLCS provides overall guidance and direction for the system. In developing management plans for NLCS lands, the BLM is working with local residents, particularly with regard to amenities such as food services and lodging, which will be located in communities adjacent to NLCS lands.

The BLM's management of all public lands, including those in the NLCS, is guided by the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA), signed 25 years ago. This landmark statute has provided for multiple use of the public lands and given the BLM important flexibility in managing the land to meet the changing and growing demands of the region. The five fastest-growing States are all in the West, and over 20 million people now live within 25 miles of BLM-managed public lands.
Today, FLPMA enables the BLM to manage the public lands not only for their commodity value, but also for their recreational opportunities and environmental qualities, such as open space. The mix of permitted uses depends on an area's resources; some BLM land is managed primarily for energy production, for example, and some for the protection of specific threatened or endangered species. FLPMA also ensures that many of BLM's traditional activities, such as grazing and hunting, will continue on lands within the NLCS, provided these activities are consistent with the overall purpose of the area.

In a crowded West, NLCS lands are special. They offer havens of solitude and a reminder of the West as it originally was. The BLM is proud to be stewards of these unique places.

Links for More Information

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