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Utah, Wyoming stand out in analysis of federal land protections

President Biden is smiling as he sits at a wooden table that has a sign reading "Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument" on it. He is surrounded by a group of people who are smiling and clapping.
Courtesy The White House
President Biden established the first new national monument of his presidency, the Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument in north-central Colorado, on Oct. 12, 2022.

A new report shows public land conservation lagged in some Western states over the past decade, but the number of acres protected in the Mountain West varies widely by state.

The Center for Western Priorities, a nonpartisan conservation group, analyzed federal acreage conserved as national parks, monuments, wildlife refuges, and national conservation areas since 2013.

It found that California leads the West in public land conservation at nearly 2.9 million acres. Utah, largely due to the designation of Bears Ears National Monument, ranks No. 2 with more than 2 million acres of federal lands protected. In third-ranked New Mexico, nearly 1.3 million acres received protections, including the designation of White Sands National Park.

Nevada ranks fourth (1.1 million acres), Montana fifth (480,700), Colorado sixth (371,000) and Idaho eighth (275,700).

Meanwhile, not a single acre has been protected in Wyoming since 2009.

“We have to get everybody to the table,” said Khale Century Reno, executive director of the conservation group Wyoming Wilderness Association. “So, you need the ranchers, you need the tribal voices, you need the conservationists, people in communities that need to know where their water’s coming from.”

She said Wyoming also needs elected officials who push for conservation like its neighbor to the south.

Last year, Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet worked with the Biden administration to help secure permanent protections for the Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument. The first new national monument created by President Biden conserves nearly 54,000 acres in the Rocky Mountains.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Kaleb is an award-winning journalist and KUNR’s Mountain West News Bureau reporter. His reporting covers issues related to the environment, wildlife and water in Nevada and the region.
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