The Future Direction of the National Landscape Conservation System

Black Foot River 

Dave Amman, Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation


This fall the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued a 15 year strategy  meant to guide their management of The National Landscape Conservation System, which celebrated its 10th anniversary last year. The 15 year strategy is a logical extension of the Secretarial Order signed by  Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in 2010, making landscape-level conservation, science and partnerships among the key priorities of the system.

The 15 year strategy is built from input gathered from the Conservation Lands Summit that BLM held last November as well as feedback from the listening sessions around the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative.  This strategy will help guide BLM into the second decade of the National Landscape Conservation System and beyond. It is organized around four themes with nineteen goals. The following are some highlights of each theme.

Ensuring the conservation, protection and restoration of conservation land values

  • The strategy makes it very clear that conservation is the “highest priority” for management and planning of the system.
  • BLM must conduct periodic management reviews to assess monuments and NCAs to improve management and share best management practices.
  • A Conservation Lands Science Team will be established to integrate science within BLM and across agencies as well as to promote and disseminate research.
  • Facilities, including roads, will only be developed on Conservation Lands if required for public safety, necessary for the exercise of valid existing rights, minimizing impacts to fragile resources, or further the purposes for which an area was designated.

Collaboratively managing the conservation lands as part of larger landscapes

  • Identify areas where Conservation Lands are important for conservation within the broader landscape using large-scale assessments that will inform planning and land acquisition efforts.
  • Map identifying key habitat linkages among Conservation Lands and of other land conservation gaps.
  • Maintain or increase habitat connectivity with other important habitat areas to provide for sustainable populations of native species.
  • Cross-jurisdictional, interagency approach to planning and management.
  • Prioritize land acquisitions for possible funding through the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Give higher priority to lands that enhance ecological connectivity and protect nationally significant landscapes that have outstanding cultural, ecological, and scientific values.
  • The Conservation Lands will be an information resource for grassroots efforts interested in exploring possible designations.

Raising awareness of the value and benefits of the BLM’s conservation lands

  • Create a long-term strategy for public awareness using publications, maps, site-specific brochures, websites, social media, and other tools.
  • Develop a national outreach and media plan that includes development of a brand and tag line for the Conservation Lands as a whole.
  • Expand volunteer opportunities.
  • Engage the public, especially youth, in education and interpretation.

Building upon BLM’s commitment to conservation

  • Improve internal communication about the Conservation Lands through training and other opportunities.
  • Integrate the Conservation Lands into other BLM manuals and policies and develop interdisciplinary implementation of programs and projects.

The goals of this strategy are aspiring and just the type of direction BLM needs to make the National Landscape Conservation System successful as America’s newest system of public land conservation. However, the most critical piece will be the implementation of the strategy. Over the next year, BLM will be coming up with an implementation plan for executing the strategy as well as developing plans for each state containing National Conservation System Lands.

In the coming year, TWS will be working with our partners in conservation to make the implementation of the National Landscape Conservation System strategy as strong as it can be. We will be calling on our members and supporters to help with this campaign when they can. When we are celebrating the system’s twenty-fifth anniversary, we hope to look back and see a thriving system of American conservation, exceeding the goals in the strategy and setting an example for BLM conservation planning and management as a whole.