Areas of Critical Environmental Concern

Areas of Critical Environmental Concern or ACEC designations highlight areas where special management attention is needed to protect important historical, cultural, and scenic values, or fish and wildlife or other natural resources. ACECs can also be designated to protect human life and safety from natural hazards.  ACECs can only be designated during the land-use planning process.

ACECs are areas within existing public lands that require special management to protect important and relevant values. ACECs can protect important resources, unique scenic landscapes, and people and property from hazards on public lands. ACECs are evaluated through land use planning using the best available information and extensive public involvement, and you have a say in how they are managed.  

Here are 5 things you need to know about BLM’s planning process and ACEC:

#1 What is land use planning and why is it important?

Each BLM Field and District Office prepares land use plans for public lands within their boundaries, as required by law. During the development of a land use plan, BLM managers work with local, state, and tribal governments, the public and other stakeholders to identify appropriate uses of the public lands and any needed protection measures. People can nominate areas of public lands for consideration - such as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern - during the land use planning process.

#2 What activities are allowed in an ACEC?

The types of activities allowed within an ACEC depend on the resource and natural value the area is designated to protect. ACEC can also provide tangible benefits, such as tourism dollars, for local communities. 

Nine Mile Canyon ACEC in Utah boasts the greatest concentration of rock art sites in the US.

A landscape view of Nine Mile Canyon ACEC in Utah. BLM photo

Table Rocks ACEC, Oregon, protects special plants, animal species and unique geologic formations.  The dwarf wooly meadowfoam wildflower grows nowhere else on Earth but on the top of the Table Rocks. 

An overvhead view of Table Rocks ACEC in Oregon. Photo by Bob Wick, BLM.

#3 How are ACEC nominated?

Anyone can nominate an ACEC, and then it is evaluated through land use planning using the best available information and extensive public involvement.

#4 How are ACEC designated?

To be considered for designation as an ACEC, the area must require special management attention to protect important and relevant values. If a nominated area meets the criteria, an interdisciplinary planning team develops potential management options and incorporates the proposed ACEC into a draft land use plan. Members of the public have the opportunity to review and comment on proposed ACEC and the associated management options during a 90-day public comment period.

#5 What happens after the public comment period?

After the public comment period closes, the planning team prepares and publishes a proposed land use plan. After the proposed plan is published, planning regulations allow people who have participated in the planning process and who have an interest which may be adversely affected by a planning decision to submit a formal protest within 30-days. ACEC are designated in the final approved Resource Management Plan.