Craig Childs' March 18 article about the Bureau of Land Management's "shadow national park system" highlighted the remarkable discoveries -- personal and scientific -- available on the millions of acres within the National Landscape Conservation System ("Secret Getaways of a BLM Groupie," HCN).
On the hundreds of unique and irreplaceable conservation sites managed by the BLM, more than 40 citizen-powered "friends' " groups have organized to assist that agency in its land-stewardship role. Such groups actively help the BLM conserve, protect and restore America's wilderness areas, trails and scenic waterways.
The Grand Staircase Escalante Partners in southern Utah is one such group. We are involved from various projects: organizing crews to remove canyon-choking invasive vegetation from the Escalante River watershed; working with local educators to connect students to the benefits of public lands; and providing thousands of volunteer hours for scientific and educational programs at the national monument.
Friends' groups seek nongovernment funding for the national conservation lands, and these funds in turn pump economic development dollars into local businesses. To better protect these spectacular places, friends' groups are collaborating. Eight groups in Utah, Colorado and Arizona are bridging the vast distances between their conservation areas through a regionwide partnership known as the Colorado Plateau Coalition. Such collaborations are powerful because the groups share their knowledge and expertise to work toward common regional goals.
The National Conservation Lands may be the last places in America for seekers of remote and ancient geographies to experience landscapes in a primitive state -- cut from the earth and largely unaltered by humans. To ensure that the National Conservation Lands remain intact, unchartered public lands, I encourage you to join a friends' group. You can locate one at conservationlands.org.
Roger P. Cole
Grand Staircase Escalante Partners