Habitat Conservation
forest, © Lindsay Kaun

Defenders in Action: BLM Public Lands

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) administers more than 258 million acres of public lands, primarily in the 11 western states and Alaska.

The agency is responsible for managing vast deserts and shrublands (including the Sonoran, Mojave and Chihuahuan deserts, and the Sagebrush Sea), as well as millions of acres western forests, coastal islands, tidal wetlands and arctic wilderness. These magnificent landscapes are home to more than 3,000 species of fish and wildlife, including the sage-grouse, desert tortoise, Sonoran pronghorn, northern spotted owl, Pacific salmon and steelhead, grizzly bear, caribou, and bald and golden eagles. Hundreds of these species are currently at risk, including 245 plants and animals listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

Most BLM lands are working landscapes, managed for multiple uses on behalf of the American public, including energy development, livestock grazing, mining and recreation, in addition to wildlife conservation.

Major Threats

Our public lands are often the last, best habitat for wildlife displaced by habitat loss and mismanagement elsewhere. But even on BLM lands, wildlife face threats from poorly planned development and land use, as well risks associated with climate change, invasive species and unnatural fire. The BLM has often had difficulty balancing resource use with wildlife conservation, watershed protection and climate adaptation on public lands.

What Defenders is Doing to Protect BLM Public Lands

Defenders of Wildlife is working in Washington, DC and across the West to improve wildlife conservation on BLM public lands:

Our Federal Lands Conservation program is heavily engaged in the National Greater Sage-Grouse Planning Strategy, an unprecedented planning effort to update nearly 70 BLM land use plans with new measures to protect sage-grouse on BLM public lands.

Our Renewable Energy team is driving the agency to develop new policies for avoiding and mitigating wind and solar energy development and transmission in important wildlife habitat, including sage-grouse, desert tortoise and Sonoran pronghorn.

Defenders’ field staff in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Montana and Oregon work with local officials and other stakeholders to implement innovative, comprehensive strategies to improve wildlife conservation on BLM public lands.

Our Government Relations department annually defends BLM wildlife programs from budget cuts and imprudent legislation, while advocating for increased funding to support species conservation and recovery.

Defenders’ Legal team holds the BLM accountable wherever it fails to properly apply the Endangered Species Act and other federal laws on public lands.

More on Habitat Conservation: Agriculture and the Farm Bill »

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