Conservation News

National Park Service Wants to Expand Public Access to Closed-Off Land

Until January 4, the agency is taking nominations for land to add to its priority list.

Public land isn’t much use to the public if it’s impossible to reach. Yet across the western United States, almost 10 million acres are inaccessible behind private landholdings. The National Park Service is working to change that, thanks to a new law that requires it and other management agencies to identify new opportunities for recreation by developing a priority list of restricted lands under their control and working to open them up. 

The John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act took effect on March 12, and through January 4, the National Park Service will be taking the public’s suggestions for parcels to prioritize. According to a Dec. 4 press release from the NPS: “Nominated lands must meet the following requirements and considerations:

• Must be managed by the NPS.

• Must be at least 640 contiguous acres.

• Must have significantly restricted or no public access.

• Potential for public access and the likelihood of resolving the absence of, or restriction to public access, are among other criteria for consideration.

For example, if a parcel of NPS land of qualifying size is surrounded by privately-owned land, NPS may consider working to acquire land or easements to provide public access

To send a recommendation to NPS regarding the Dingell Act, visit the NPS website comment section. In your comment, make sure to include the location of the parcel, its total acreage, and a description of the parcel’s restricted or non-existent access. You can also include any additional information that NPS should consider when building its priority list.

The comment period closes on January 4, 2020 at 11:59 PM Mountain Time, at which point NPS will begin its evaluation process. The final priority list will be posted by March 12, 2020, and updated every other year for 10 years.

In addition to directing the park service to open up restricted lands, the law established a number of new national monuments, permanently reauthorized the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and provided for almost half a million acres of BLM land to be transferred to Alaska Native veterans and their heirs.