National Conservation Areas Frequently Asked Questions


What is a National Conservation Area?

National Conservation Areas (NCAs) feature exceptional natural, recreational, cultural, wildlife, aquatic, archaeological, paleontological, historical, educational, and/or scientific resources. Each NCA is designated for unique purposes and consequently, each NCA is managed in unique ways.

How are NCAs established?

NCAs are only designated by acts of Congress. 

What is the status of NCAs in New Mexico?

There are two NCAs in New Mexico:  El Malpais NCA and Fort Stanton-Snowy River Cave NCA.

What recreation activities occur in NCAs?

Recreational uses in NCAs include a wide variety of non-motorized and motorized activities. Each area is unique and offers different opportunities and different restrictions, but common activities include hiking, hunting, fishing, horseback riding, backpacking, camping, nature study, photography, mountain biking, and driving off-highway vehicle routes.

Are motor vehicles allowed?

Typically, motor vehicles are allowed on routes designated for such use. Because each NCA is designated uniquely, conditions of use may vary.

Can I ride my bicycle in NCAs?

Typically, bicycles are allowed on routes identified as open to that use. Because each NCA is designated uniquely, conditions of use may vary.

Is hunting permitted?

Yes. Hunting and fishing are allowed in NCAs, subject to applicable state and federal laws. Hunting and fishing activities must be properly licensed, as required by state laws. 

Are guides and outfitters allowed to operate in NCAs?

Yes, when consistent with the managing office’s resource management plan. Guides and outfitters are required to be permitted by the BLM.

Is grazing permitted?

Yes. Grazing is permitted subject to the same management that occurs on other BLM lands.

How does NCA designation impact mining?

NCAs are not open to new mining. However, where a valid claim had been identified before designation, those minerals may be mined so long as such mining does not cause unnecessary or undue degradation.

Can roads, power lines, or pipelines be constructed?

Generally no, except where such construction would meet the purpose for which the area was designated. 

Are fires allowed to burn?

In cases where fire plays a key function in the areas ecology, BLM will work to maintain the role of fire. However, all fires must be controlled to prevent loss of human life or property within the NCA or on lands adjacent to the NCA.

How are water rights impacted?

Each NCA’s designation addresses water rights.