Systematic identification of potential conservation priority areas on roadless Bureau of Land Management lands in the western United States.

Thursday, October 23, 2014: 5:30 PM
Atrium Hall (Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center)
Brett Dickson , Conservation Science Partners, Truckee, CA
Ken Rait , The Pew Charitable Trusts, Washington, DC
Luke Zachmann , Conservation Science Partners, Truckee, CA
Christine Albano , UC-Davis, Davis, CA
Leslie Duncan , The Pew Charitable Trusts, Washington, DC
In the western United States, vast areas of public land, including those administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), present substantial conservation opportunities. For 11 western states, we used a novel multiple-criteria analysis to model and map contiguous areas of roadless BLM land that possessed important ecological indicators of high biodiversity, resilience to climate change, and landscape connectivity. We leveraged available spatial datasets to implement a systematic and statistically robust analysis of seven key indicators at three different spatial scales, and to identify the locations of lands with relatively high conservation value across 73-million acres of roadless BLM land. We identified 22.5-million acres of land with relatively high conservation value mostly located in Utah, Colorado, Arizona, Oregon, and Nevada. The highest value lands exhibited greater species richness, vegetation community diversity, topographic complexity, and surface water availability than existing BLM protected areas. As measured by our indicators, BLM lands also encompass extensive areas of ecological importance relative to other public lands managed by the National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service, and serve as critical connections between already protected areas across the West’s public domain. The methodology pioneered in this work provides a decision-making tool as BLM and the Department of the Interior engage in large landscape analyses and planning efforts. Policy applications include nomination of identified areas for specific protection, both in BLM’s standard land management planning process and in administrative petitions for areas outside the current planning cycle.