Conservation Gridlock: 2024 Update

Apr 2, 2024

Oregon, Idaho, and Wyoming fall behind while Arizona and Nevada move up thanks to presidential action

An updated analysis from the Center for Western Priorities finds that not every Western state is living up to its conservation legacy. Oregon in particular has a proud conservation tradition, yet a dysfunctional Congress is blocking the largest conservation opportunity in the West.

The report, Conservation Gridlock, is an annual update to a 2022 analysis that looked at the acres of national public land protected over the last 20 years in eight Western states. This year’s update finds that in the last decade, Idaho, Oregon, and Wyoming have conserved far less land than other Western states. In fact, the three leading states—California, Utah, and Nevada—have protected 14 times more acres of public land than the three bottom states.

Read the Report

The report updates a May 2022 report from the Center for Western Priorities which spotlighted Colorado, a state whose conservation track record in recent years was not living up to its reputation as a national conservation leader. Soon after the release of the original report, Colorado Senator Michael Bennet worked alongside President Biden and his administration to secure permanent protections for the Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument. The widely celebrated action was the first new national monument created by President Biden, conserving nearly 54,000 acres in the Rocky Mountains. Following the 2023 update to the report, which highlighted Arizona as one of the states lagging behind in conservation, President Biden designated Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni–Ancestral Footprints of the Grand Canyon National Monument. This added over a million acres of protected public land and moved Arizona from ranking 10th in 2023 to 5th in 2024.

states listed in order of acres of land protected 2014-2023Meanwhile, Idaho, Oregon, and Wyoming have made little to no progress in the last decade. In Oregon, legislation to conserve the Owyhee Canyonlands, championed by Oregon senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, has languished in Congress for almost ten years. This legislation would protect millions of acres of sagebrush, river canyons, and geologic wonders and preserve irreplaceable cultural sites, artifacts, and resources.

Unfortunately, major conservation bills like this one have little hope of making it out of Congress. The only way to make progress on protecting public lands is for elected leaders to work with President Biden to realize his historic commitment to conserve America’s lands and waters, and move popular conservation initiatives forward in the West.