Looking Back, Looking Ahead
The National Landscape Conservation System Celebrates its 10th Anniversary
Years ago, my son was about eight years old when he saw his first whale. He was hanging pretty close to me as we explored the Yaquina Head lighthouse in the BLM's Salem District. Then we saw it. There, down in the surf just below. A massive, beautiful grey creature repeatedly surfaced, blew a spout of water, and then disappeared for a few minutes as it lunched on the local fare. The Yaquina Head Natural Area is a frequent stopover for grey whales moving along the coast - and it isn't the only place to see unspoiled magic.
I was barely 21, a young and budding explorer and a seasonal employee for a Federal agency in central Oregon. On a three-day weekend with two companions, I explored the John Day River by kayak. I don't recall the exact put-in or take-out but it was along a corridor now dubbed as Wild and Scenic. What I do recall clearly is jaw-dropping scenery and rock formations like I'd never before seen.
Those were two very different experiences. Two special times. Two uniquely wonderful places. And both sites would later become components of the BLM's National Landscape Conservation System (NLCS) in Oregon.
Ten years ago the BLM began identifying such areas across the nation for their significant cultural, scientific, historical, and recreational values and preserving them for current and future generations.
Today, 886 areas covering 27 million acres as diverse as the Alaska tundra and the Colorado canyonlands bear the NLCS brand.
For citizens in the Northwest, NLCS areas include the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area, and the Steens Mountain Cooperative Management and Protection Area. Additional NLCS sites comprise eight wilderness areas in Oregon and one in Washington, one National Scenic Trail and two National Historic Trails in Oregon and one National Scenic Trail in Washington, and a combined total of 88 wilderness study areas. Oregon also is home to 25 wild and scenic rivers (four times more than any other state), the famed National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center in eastern Oregon, and much more.
But many people don't know these areas by their NLCS designation. They do, however, know the land. In fact, it may take Congressional or Presidential action to preserve these areas with the NLCS brand, but it's the local individuals, groups, and organizations who have been the driving force behind those actions. They are the people who experience these areas and treasure them for the many diverse offerings they provide.
Conserving, protecting, and restoring such treasured areas will continue as the NLCS mission into the next 10 years and beyond. Just as it did in its first decade, maintaining and adding to the current list of exceptional landscapes will require continued interest and partnership with citizens and stakeholder groups.
At press time, we found a growing number of events celebrating the 10th Anniversary of NLCS coming up this year throughout Oregon & Washington!
The BLM's Prineville District will hold a dedication ceremony in June for the Badlands and Spring Basin Wilderness Areas. Then later this summer, Lakeview, Oregon, will hold its own celebration for the Upper Klamath River receiving both NLCS and Wild and Scenic River designations.
Plus there will be NLCS-curated exhibits at the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center in Burns, Oregon, and at the Yaquina Head Lighthouse in the BLM's Salem District. And in the fall we'll see multiple National Public Lands Days across Medford, Oregon - all of which will be dedicated to celebrating and increasing awareness around the 10th Anniversary of NLCS.
Visit us online for more about the BLM's National Conservation Lands.