11 Most Endangered Historic Places
National Landscape Conservation System
Year Listed: 2005
Threat: Development, Poor Public Policy
Encompassing 26 million acres in 12 Western states, the National Landscape Conservation System (NLCS) includes dozens of national monuments, conservation and wilderness areas, historic trails, and wild and scenic rivers, embracing an incredible array of historic sites ranging from Native American pueblos to traces of frontier-era migration routes. Managed by the Federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the system was established to conserve, protect, and restore natural and cultural landscapes that offer visitors a chance to see the West through the eyes of the first Americans, as well as the explorers and homesteaders. However, BLM's ability to provide this protection is seriously hampered by chronic understaffing and underfunding. As a result, fragile resources are being threatened or destroyed, often before they can be studied or even inventoried. In Arizona, for example, off-road vehicles are imperiling scores of prehistoric sites scattered across the desert and canyons at Agua Fria National Monument, which draws increasing numbers of visitors from nearby Phoenix. Meanwhile, on the Mormon Trail in Wyoming, BLM authorities are scrambling to inventory historic and cultural sites before they are lost to mismanaged grazing, mineral exploration, unauthorized land use, theft and vandalism. Unless BLM gets the funding and staffing it needs for the National Landscape Conservation System, irreplaceable treasures will continue to be lost or destroyed, and important chapters in America's story will be erased.