BLM Paper on National Monuments, Other Conservation Units Unveiled

September 1, 2010

The BLM has been evaluating its historic pattern of generally emphasizing extraction of natural resources and de-emphasizing conservation of those resources. Some thoughts on a possible shift toward more conservation are contained in an "internal draft, not for release" discussion paper titled "BLM Vision for Treasured Landscapes in the 21st Century."

Portions of that paper have leaked earlier this year, stirring many people, particularly Republicans, to call for release of the full paper. It was unveiled on the Web site of Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) on Aug. 16, 2010. 

In the paper, about half of the 264 million acres under BLM management are deemed worthy of consideration as "treasured lands." The paper goes on to say that these lands could be better protected, but preferably with public participation in the planning and legislative processes. One method discussed is simply emphasizing conservation values more in land use planning documents.

Another possibility discussed is to have the President designate as national monuments those lands that are significant and immediately threatened. Prospects include: 

  • AZ: Northwest Sonoran Desert
  • CA: Berryessa Snow Mountains; Bodie Hills; Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument (expansion); Modoc Plateau
  • CO: Vermillion Basin
  • MT: Montana's Northern Prairie
  • NM: Otero Mesa; Lesser Prairie Chicken Preserve
  • NV: Heart of the Great Basin; the Owyhee Desert
  • OR: Owyhee Desert
  • UT: Cedar Mesa region; San Rafael Swell
  • WA: San Juan Islands

Other areas considered worthy of national monument designation, but ineligible for that and unlikely to receive legislative protection include:

  • AK: Bristol Bay region; Teshekpuk Lake
  • WY: Red Desert

Areas for which legislation has been introduced designating lands as wilderness or national conservation areas include:

  • CA: Mojave Desert Sand to Snow; San Diego County wilderness
  • CO: Dolores River Basin; Hidden Gems
  • NM: El Rio Grande Del Norte; Organ Mountains and adjacent wilderness
  • NV: Gold Butte
  • OR: John Day Basin
  • UT: Utah wilderness

Another idea noted in the letter was that it could be beneficial to make inroads on eliminating the hundreds of thousands of inholding acres among existing national monuments (283,857 acres) and national conservation areas (128,800 acres).

All these areas and processes are worth covering in more depth now and as events unfold.