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© Barry Draper

Defending Habitat

Public Lands

National Wildlife Refuges

Our nation's wildlife refuges provide habitat for more than 8,000 species, including over 380 species listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Defenders of Wildlife is working to protect and strengthen the National Wildlife Refuge System, the only network of federal lands and waters in the United States dedicated to wildlife conservation.

Our experts work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to ensure that diverse wildlife populations that depend on the 850-million-acre refuge system are secure and thriving.

Our team also works actively on Capitol Hill to defend national wildlife refuges from legislative attacks that would expose them to harmful resource extraction and commercial activities, impair conservation of imperiled species, or even sell off or give away vital habitat. We advocate for adequate funding for the refuge system and for science-based management policies that provide the agency the tools it needs to make wildlife refuges more resilient in the face of climate change.

National Forests and Grasslands

One-third of America’s threatened or endangered species either use national forests and grasslands or are otherwise affected by management on the 193 million acres that make up our National Forest System. In addition, several thousand species of fish, wildlife and plants that live on national forests are at risk of extirpation.

National forests and grasslands are critical for recovering imperiled species because they provide crucial habitat strongholds within a broader matrix of degraded and developed lands. However, even in national forests, wildlife face threats from incompatible logging, roadbuilding, oil and gas drilling, livestock grazing, mining, fire suppression, and climate change.

Our team uses advocacy, science and law to ensure that wildlife species and their habitats are conserved on national forests. We work with the U.S. Forest Service to implement forward-looking policies, plans, and projects that conserve, connect and restore habitat for at-risk wildlife. We're also working with our allies on Capitol Hill and across the country to forcefully oppose any policy or legislative proposal that could degrade habitat or weaken conservation laws for our national forests.

BLM Public Lands

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is responsible for more than 258 million acres of public lands, including vast deserts, grasslands, shrublands, western forests, wetlands and Arctic wilderness, all home to thousands of species of wildlife, including more than 400 ESA-listed species. BLM lands include working landscapes, managed on behalf of the American public for multiple uses that include activities like energy development, livestock grazing, mining, and recreation. However, these ecosystems are also vital to native fish, wildlife and plants that depend on appropriate management of these public lands.

Our experts work closely with the BLM to ensure that management balances multiple uses with species conservation. We engage in land use planning, and encourage the agency to protect habitat and mitigate for climate change across landscapes. Our team on Capitol Hill also works every year to defend BLMSA or other conservation laws on public lands, our legal team acts quickly to hold them accountable. or other conservation laws on public lands, our legal team acts quickly to hold them accountable.