Almost half of the United States is owned by the American public and managed on our behalf by government agencies. The Center uses science, law, policy advocacy, and strategic collaboration to protect and restore wildlands — and thus preserve the rich legacy of biological diversity and wilderness they harbor.  


As the coming century of global warming threatens to accelerate the extinction crisis, we believe the highest and best use of wild lands is to provide safe harbor for species by protecting the ecological systems upon which they and we ultimately depend. To this end, our advocacy directly confronts land uses that harm species and ecosystems — from off-road vehicle use and livestock grazing to industrial logging and uranium and fossil fuel extraction — while advancing precedent-setting litigation, policies, and strategic collaborations to usher in a hopeful new era of biodiversity conservation for our wildlands. We work toward a future in which species and ecosystems are finally afforded primacy among public lands priorities.


• Scientific research
• Litigation
• Analyzing and commenting on agency decisions
• Administrative appeals
• Grassroots organizing
• Creative media


Our Public Lands Program:

• Protected 24 desert species on 11 million acres in the California Desert Conservation Area under a sweeping legal settlement with the Bureau of Land Management in 2001, helping protect the Peninsular bighorn sheep, prohibiting mining on 3.4 million acres and off-road vehicles on 550,000 acres, and reducing or prohibiting livestock on 2 million acres.

• Secured injunctions against logging in Arizona and New Mexico, halting all logging on national forests in both states for 16 months in 1995 and 1996.

• Won designation of 4.6 million acres of forest as critical habitat for the Mexican spotted owl in Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah, and a subsequent court victory designating more critical habitat for the Mexican spotted owl — for a final total of 8.6 million acres.

• Brought about cancellation of many major timber sales, including the Clear Creek sale in Coconino National Forest, the Corner Mountain sale in Gila National Forest, and four sales in Willamette National Forest — saving millions of board feet and important habitat for species from birds to bull trout.

• Achieved retirement of a number of grazing allotments in southwestern national forests and removal of cattle by the U.S. Forest Service from 330 miles of rivers in the Gila River basin.

• Won significant wildlife protections, and drove water-management reform, on Arizona and Mexico’s stunning San Pedro River, the last completely free-flowing river in the Southwest and a biodiversity hotspot that hosts 400 bird species.

Get the latest on our work for biodiversity and learn how to help in our free weekly e-newsletter.


Oil rigThe Trump administration has put 27 national monuments on the chopping block, endangering more than 1 billion acres of America's most spectacular, culturally important and ecologically intact public lands and oceans. Learn more and take action to save them.

smokestacksKeep It in the Ground: Ending new fossil fuel leasing on America's public lands and offshore areas would keep up to 450 billion tons of greenhouse gases from polluting our atmosphere, says an important recent study.

Public Lands enemiesA Center report called Public Lands Enemies analyzes 132 bills part of an effort by 15 U.S. lawmakers, backed by extractive industries, to privatize our public lands — putting at risk hundreds of thousands of public acres home to diverse native wildlife.

Oil rigSince 2007 we've been fighting the proposed Rosemont Mine, a massive open-pit copper mine planned for the beautiful Santa Rita Mountains in the Sky Islands region outside Tucson, Arizona. Learn which species live there and what else is at stake.

Oil rigThe Center has released a scorecard grading the feds on plans for conserving greater sage grouse across the West. Find out which plan failed.

Oil rigClearcutting has grave consequences for wildlife, water — and our climate. We make sure logging's carbon consequences are addressed.

Desert tortoise The ancient desert tortoise has been around since the Pleistocene, but now it’s fighting for survival — and the Center is behind it all the way.

Off-road vehiclesWe’re keeping off-road vehicles from tearing up delicate ecosystems and imperiling species throughout the United States.




Contact the Public Lands Program

Photo of Dead Horse State Park, Utah courtesy Flickr Commons/Vironevaeh