Protecting Vulnerable Public Lands Could Address U.S. Outdoor Recreation Needs
A new report from the Center for American Progress shows how a new rule and other conservation action by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) can help bridge the nature gap for underserved communities and meet surging demand for parks and outdoor recreation.
The BLM oversees approximately 245 million acres of lands and waters, from red rock canyons and sagebrush-covered plateaus to coastal bluffs and rivers teeming with salmon. Earlier this year, the bureau proposed a Public Lands Rule that would protect vulnerable lands so that conservation considerations are on par with oil and gas leasing, mining, and other extractive industries. (See CAP’s June 2023 report “What Biden’s Proposed Conservation Rule Would Mean for America’s Most Vulnerable Public Lands.”)
CAP’s new analysis identifies more than 20 million acres of currently unprotected BLM lands within 10 miles of the nation’s most socially vulnerable and nature-deprived census tracts; nearly 35 million acres within 50 miles of a national park; and nearly 50 million acres within 25 miles of either a national or state park.
The analysis—and specific examples from Nevada, New Mexico, and Arizona—highlights how finalizing the BLM Public Lands Rule could improve nature access for communities with the greatest need and meet recreation demand near popular and overcrowded parks.
“Beyond our best-known parks, America’s public lands hold massive, untapped potential to connect people with nature, meet growing demand for outdoor recreation, and sustain rural economies,” said Drew McConville, senior fellow at CAP and co-author of the analysis. “Through its Public Lands Rule and new investments in recreation, the Biden administration is embracing this opportunity.”
The report urges the Biden administration to capitalize on this outdoor recreation opportunity by:
- Finalizing a strong BLM Public Lands Rule
- Acting on community-led conservation proposals to protect high-value recreation areas
- Finalizing regulations limiting oil and gas development impacts on key recreation areas
- Investing in recreation infrastructure and management
- Tackling other barriers to equitable nature access
Read the report: “Protecting Vulnerable Public Lands Could Address U.S. Outdoor Recreation Needs,” by Drew McConville and Sam Zeno