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Conservation Increased on Public Lands in NW California With New Areas of Critical Environmental Concern

For Immediate Release, June 21, 2024

Contact: Laura Cunningham, Western Watersheds Project, (775) 513-1280,

Conservation Increased on Public Lands in Northwestern California With New Areas of Critical Environmental Concern

REDDING, Calif.— The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) today announced the release of the proposed Northwest California Integrated Resource Management Plan (NCIP) and the Final Environmental Impact Statement, updating management for public lands in BLM’s Arcata and Redding field offices. Conservationists praised the plan for proposing to designate many new Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACECs) that would manage natural and cultural resources for increased preservation.

“I applaud the BLM in recognizing the importance of ACECs, both internally designated and externally nominated, in order to revise and improve management of rare and sensitive wildlife and habitats,” said Laura Cunningham, California Director with Western Watersheds Project. “This example in northwestern California can help illuminate the path forward as the new Public Lands Rule is rolled out, emphasizing ACEC designations as a way to conserve lands and counterbalance extraction and development.”

The area encompasses diverse habitats such as oak savannas, coastal prairies, vernal pools, lava-rock ridges, mountain meadows, coastal dunes, Douglas fir forests, and salmon rivers, including the Eel, Mattole, Smith, Mad, Sacramento, Klamath, Pit, Scott, Shasta, and Trinity Rivers, as well as smaller streams that serve as crucial fish spawning habitats. Species in the NCIP area include chinook salmon, coho salmon, steelhead trout, coastal cutthroat trout, bull trout, Pacific lamprey, shortnose and Lost River suckers, Delta smelt, and many other native and imperiled fishes.

Critical habitat for several federally listed birds and mammals occurs on these lands managed within the BLM plan area, including marbled murrelet—a seabird that flies from feeding waters in the Pacific Ocean inland to nest in tall coast redwood trees, northern spotted owl, western yellow-billed cuckoo—which nests in dense riparian groves along the Sacramento River, western snowy plover, and the Pacific marten–a forest-dwelling weasel relative.

The NCIP area in this broad section of California also provides habitat for Roosevelt elk, tule elk, and Rocky Mountain elk, as well as newly dispersing wolf packs which follow these herds.

The proposed action (Alternative D) would designate 26 Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACECs) comprised of existing and internally and externally nominated areas, covering 87,890 acres to protect relevant and important values.

In April 2024, BLM announced an update to its regulations interpreting the Federal Land Policy and Management Act with a Public Lands Rule that recognizes conservation as an essential component of public lands management, on equal footing with other multiple uses of these lands.

BLM acknowledged that livestock grazing is a contributor to impacts to imperiled species and habitats. During the environmental review, BLM described how livestock grazing activities can cause vegetation loss, soil compaction, erosion, impacts on riparian health, and impact on stream banks, while construction of rangeland improvement projects can also cause ground disturbance and temporal impacts.The proposed action in northwestern California public lands would reduce livestock grazing on allotments that overlap ACECs.

Several of the ACECs would be managed as unavailable for livestock grazing in order to protect rare plants, vernal pools, riparian areas, cold water sources for salmon, unique geological features, bighorn sheep, and rare cultural resources.

The high climate resilience of these ACECs further serves to facilitate species adaptation to changing climate.

The two Resource Management Plan revisions will guide management of approximately 382,200 acres of public lands in Butte, Del Norte, Humboldt, Mendocino, Shasta, Siskiyou, Tehama, and Trinity counties for the next 15 to 20 years.


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