With ongoing global change, there is an urgent need to expand existing networks of important conservation areas around the world. In the western United States, vast areas of public land, including those administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), present substantial conservation opportunities. For 11 contiguous western states, we used a novel multiple-criteria analysis to model and map contiguous areas of roadless BLM land that possessed important ecological indicators of high biodiversity, resilience to climate change, and landscape connectivity. Specifically, we leveraged available spatial datasets to implement a systematic and statistically robust analysis of seven key indicators at three different spatial scales, and to identify the locations of potential conservation priority areas (CPAs) across 294,274km2 of roadless BLM land. Within this extent, and based on conservative thresholds in our results, we identified 43,417km2 of land with relatively high conservation value and 117 unique CPAs totaling 6291km2. Most CPA lands were located in Utah, Colorado, Arizona, Oregon, and Nevada. Overall, CPAs had higher species richness, vegetation community diversity, topographic complexity, and surface water availability than existing BLM protected areas. CPAs often corresponded with locations known to have important wilderness characteristics or were adjacent to established areas of ecological, social, or cultural importance. These CPAs represent a diverse set of places that can be used by multiple stakeholders in ongoing or future landscape conservation and special designation efforts in BLM and adjacent ownerships. Our methodological framework and novel weighting approach can accommodate a wide range of input variables and is readily applicable to other jurisdictions and regions within the U.S. and beyond.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Nature and Landscape Conservation