Bureau of Land Management Boosts Monument Protections

Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, Colorado. Courtesy BLM.

Millions of acres of lands and waters containing many of the nation’s most incredible natural and cultural treasures got a long-overdue boost last week when the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued new guidance that made the protection of natural and cultural resources a top priority.

Instead of adhering to a “multiple-use” mandate — which provides for a variety of uses, many of which can cause harm to the natural or cultural values that these special lands were designated to protect — the new guidance prioritizes the protection of natural and cultural resources on National Monuments and other areas created by proclamations or acts of Congress, like National Conservation Areas (NCAs)

For years, The Wilderness Society and its partners have been working to ensure that unique BLM landscapes, like Montana’s Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument and Colorado’s Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, receive a higher standard of care than other BLM lands. Unfortunately, many of the BLM’s management plans for these areas did not prioritize the protection of the very resources they were created to conserve and protect.

The lands that will benefit by the decision are part of BLM’s National Landscape Conservation System, America’s newest system of conservation lands, which was made permanent last March as part of the Omnibus Public Land Management Act. Whether in Colorado, Oregon, Arizona, Montana, or other states, the BLM’s decision could lead to stronger protections for these crown jewels of our public land. Here are a few examples:

Canyons of the Ancients in southwest Colorado:

Canyons of the Ancients National Monument contains the highest density of archaeological sites in the nation and holds evidence of cultures and traditions spanning thousands of years. This area, with its intertwined natural and cultural resources, is a rugged landscape, a quality that greatly contributes to the protection of its scientific and historic objects. The monument offers an unparalleled opportunity to observe, study, and experience how cultures lived and adapted over time in the American Southwest.

Pilot Rock, Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, Oregon. Courtesy BLM.Cascade-Siskiyou in southwest Oregon:

With towering fir forests, sunlit oak groves, wildflower-strewn meadows, and steep canyons, the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument is an ecological wonder, with biological diversity unmatched in the Cascade Range. This rich enclave of natural resources is a biological crossroads — the interface of the Cascade, Klamath, and Siskiyou ecoregions, in an area of unique geology, biology, climate, and topography.

Grand Canyon-Parashant in northwest Arizona:

Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument. Courtesy BLM.The Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument is a vast, biologically diverse, impressive landscape encompassing an array of scientific and historic objects. This remote area of open, undeveloped spaces and engaging scenery is located on the edge of one of the most beautiful places on earth, the Grand Canyon. Despite the hardships created by rugged isolation and the lack of natural waters, the monument has a long and rich human history spanning more than 11,000 years, and an equally rich geologic history spanning almost 2 billion years.

Upper Missouri River Breaks in central Montana:

Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument, Montana. Courtesy BLM.The Upper Missouri Breaks National Monument contains bluffs and badlands, wilderness, the premier segment of the Lewis and Clark Historic Trail, and 149 miles of the Upper Missouri National Wild and Scenic River. Visitors can float the Missouri River and view the area as Captains Lewis and Clark did on their epic journey over 200 years ago, as well as hike, fish, hunt, or simply marvel at the remarkable scenery. It also contains a spectacular array of biological, geological, and historical objects of interest. The area has remained largely unchanged in the nearly 200 years since Meriwether Lewis and William Clark traveled through it on their epic journey.

Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, Colorado. Courtesy BLM.
Pilot Rock, Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, Oregon. Courtesy BLM.
Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monumentm, Arizona. Courtesy BLM.
Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument, Montana. Courtesy BLM.