The newest additional to federal lands protective designations, the National Conservation Lands are 31 million acres of our most ecologically rich and culturally significant lands—open to all—managed by the Bureau of Land Management. These places, mostly large and pristine landscapes, are found throughout the West, Alaska and even extend to the East Coast. America’s newest collection of protected public lands and waterways stands alongside our national parks and wildlife refuges as guardians of America’s heritage and drivers of the nation’s $646 billion outdoor recreation economy.
Nationally Significant Lands
The National Conservation Lands include National Monuments and National Conservation Areas, Wilderness and Wilderness Study Areas, Wild and Scenic Rivers, and National Scenic and Historic Trails. These nationally significant lands embody freedom, discovery and unique outdoor experiences. The recreational opportunities afforded by the National Conservation Lands are unmatched—and they support the tourism and recreation economies of our Eastern Sierra Communities, as well as rural communities around the west.
The National Conservation Lands ensure our clean air and water, while protecting critical habitat for our wildlife. Most National Conservation Lands areas are open to hunting and fishing, and offer some of America’s best places for sportsmen to carry on outdoor traditions.
This collection of protected public lands also protects and preserves America’s sacred sites and cultural history. From ancient Puebloan cultures of 1,000 years ago to Spanish, Mexican, Native American and American settler histories from recent centuries, the National Conservation Lands represent a complete tour of the history of the American West.
23.29% of California’s 171 units of National Conservation Lands lie in Inyo and Mono counties and hold innumerable possibilities for recreation, learning, and scientific research.
Wilderness Study Areas– Bodie, Bodie Mountain, Casa Diablo, Cerro Gordo, Chidago Canyon, Crater Mountain, Death Valley 17, Excelsior, Fish Slough, Great Falls Basin, Independence Creek, Mount Biedeman, Sacatar Meadows, Slinkard, Southern Inyo, Symmes Creek, Volcanic Tablelands.
Wilderness Areas-Argus Range, Coso Range, Darwin Falls, Funeral Mountains, Granite Mountain, Ibex, Inyo Mountains, Malpais Mesa, Manly Peak, Nopah range, Owens Peak, Pahrump Valley, Piper Mountain, Resting Spring Range, Sacatar Trail, South Nopah Range, Surprise Canyon, Sylvania Mountains, White Mountains.
Wild and Scenic Rivers– Amargosa River, Cottonwood Wild and Scenic River
National Scenic Trails– Pacific Crest Trail
California Desert National Conservation Lands– Centennial Flat, Conglomerate Mesa, Indian Wells, Panamint Valley, Owens Valley, Amargosa Basin
The lands, rivers and trails within the National Conservation Lands have been designated for protection, but they are also incredibly vulnerable. They face abuse from reckless oil and gas drilling and irresponsible off-road vehicle use. They are subject to looting, vandalism and neglect from underfunding. We work together with our members, volunteers and the agency to reduce these threats with on-the-ground work, partnerships and advocacy.
Now we are seeing Congressional attacks on the Antiquities Act—a bedrock conservation law that has been used by 16 Presidents—eight from each party—to protect our nation’s heritage. Many of our national monuments and national parks would not exist today if they had not been protected under the Antiquities Act. At the same time there are Executive attacks such as the National Monument review. We are working today to ensure California’s National Monuments stay the way they are for future generations of people and wildlife. Not only are new monuments like Berryessa Snow Mountain, and Carrizo Plain on the chopping block, but established monuments like Giant Sequoia are at risk as well. Although the Eastern Sierra is not under Executive threat right now, we stand in solidarity with other California Monuments. An attack on one is an attack on all and the Eastern Sierra could be next.
What We Can Do About It
Upon the creation of the National Conservation Lands system, Friends of the Inyo worked closely with the Bishop and Ridgecrest Bureau of Land Management offices to restore and promote recreation on the National Conservation Lands and has since led restoration and stewardship trips on National Conservation Lands in Inyo and Mono counties.
Friends of the Inyo’s work on National Conservation Lands has included:
- Active protection of the Bodie and Bodie Mountain Wilderness Study Areas
- Construction, maintenance, and patrol on a 20 acre riparian exclosure on Cottonwood Creek, the only designated Wild and Scenic River protected from its headwaters to its terminus.
- Route inventories of Wilderness Study Areas in partnership with Bishop Field Office
- Active protection of Conglomerate Mesa, California Desert National Conservation Land
THE FRIENDS GRASSROOTS NETWORK
To be effective we cannot work alone. Conservation starts with community, and history has shown that places are best protected when there is a group of local citizen advocates to lead the effort. As members of the Friends Grassroots Network, we do critical, on-the-ground work to steward and protect the National Conservation Lands. Locally we work with the Alabama Hills Stewardship Group, the Bodie Hills Conservation Partnership, and the Amargosa Conservancy. Nationally, we also use our collective voice as a connected network to advance strong conservation management policies and practices. In 2014 the Friends Grassroots Network collectively raised over $2 million to support this work. In 2017 the network helped gather 2.8 million comments to the Department of Interior supporting National Monuments.