Public lands provide important habitat for wildlife and abundant recreational opportunities. The Cascade Forest Conservancy’s work toward protecting these values involves safeguarding our federal public lands against harmful legislation that aims to transfer these lands out of federal ownership. We have also developed a long-term vision for land protection within the Gifford Pinchot National Forest that aligns proposed protected areas with the need for improved habitat connectivity and resilience to climate change impacts. As part of this vision, we advocate for new wilderness designations and administrative designations to protect these areas. Although many of our land protection efforts are focused within the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, we recognize the habitat value of connected state and private lands and work to protect those areas from harmful development.
Public lands are treasured places to reconnect with nature and with each other. The values supported by our public lands are as diverse as the landscapes. These lands, owned by all Americans, provide essential fish and wildlife habitat as well as incredible landscapes to enjoy camping, hiking, fishing, and oth
er recreational activities. The Cascade Forest Conservancy believes that public lands, and the irreplaceable benefits they provide, should remain in public ownership for future generations to enjoy.
Unfortunately, there has been a growing movement at the state and federal level to transfer public lands out of federal ownership. Legislation that aims to transfer public lands to states risks the public’s access because states often cannot afford to keep these lands. Because of this, public lands transferred to state ownership are likely to be privatized and the public will lose access to these special places.
At the Cascade Forest Conservancy we are working with our partners to monitor and oppose efforts to transfer public lands out of federal ownership. Additionally, we are working at the local level to ensure that our representatives recognize the value federal public lands have to local communities.
Legislative and administrative designations can protect key areas and improve habitat connectivity throughout the region. These designations can create reserves throughout the region with varying levels of protection from harmful activities. Wilderness is the highest level of protection for federal public lands, and restricts most activities that are not backcountry recreation including motorized vehicle use. Large wilderness areas are critical to improving habitat connectivity, but some important habitat areas may not be eligible or suitable for wilderness designation. In these cases, priority backcountry areas can be conserved administratively, including through special area designations and forest plan amendments.
Recognizing the importance of these designations to land and watershed protection, the Cascade Forest Conservancy continues to work toward the protection of important habitat areas. The map below shows priority areas for improving habitat connectivity within the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. There are a range of options for creating these new protected areas including new and expanded Wilderness areas, special areas designated by the Forest Service, and forest plan amendments. To read more about our vision for habitat connectivity in the GPNF, check out our Wildlife and Climate Resilience Guidebook here.