National Conservation Lands

The Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument is part of the National Conservation Lands, a 31-million-acre group of National Monuments, National Conservation Areas, Wilderness Study Areas and more. Found throughout the West and even extending to the East Coast, these areas are the nation’s newest protected lands. They are lesser known than America’s National Parks, but equally as beautiful and valuable. From whitewater rafting and fishing in Montana’s Beartrap Canyon to camping and mountain biking in California’s King Range National Conservation Area, the recreational opportunities afforded by the National Conservation Lands are unsurpassed. This collection of protected lands also includes historical sites likes California’s Fort Ord National Monument and the World War II pilot training grounds in New Mexico’s Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument.

The use and protection of these lands is overseen by the Bureau of Land Management. The Friends are a part of a national group of organizations called the Friends Grassroots Network. This network advocates not only for the conservation of existing areas, but also for the designation of new lands, engaging the BLM in how they oversee and manage these places. These areas are afforded much less funding than the better-known National Parks. As the public is less aware of these rich and scenic areas, they are often prone to abuse. Collectively the Grassroots Network has raised more than $2 million to conserve and support the protection of these designated regions. The network uses a collective voice to advance conservation management policies and practices.

Places like Yosemite, the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone have a strong existing support from the public. One of the goals of the Friends Network is to gain the same kind of support for National Conservation Lands, through educating the public and bringing a true appreciation for these wonderful places. Community is the beginning of conservation, and through a group effort the Friends Network can continue to advocate for the National Conservation Lands and protect them for future generations.


Wilderness Study Areas

Cow Creek WSA
This WSA covers 34,050 acres on the north side of the Missouri River. Of this total, 21,590 acres were recommended as suitable for wilderness designation. The size of the area, opportunities for solitude and primitive recreation, and the attractiveness of the setting combine to provide excellent wilderness quality. A diversity of recreational opportunities makes this area excellent for primitive recreational use, and a
four-mile long sheer wall of sandstone is an outstanding scenic feature.

Woodhawk WSA
This WSA covers 4,800 acres on the north side of the Missouri River. More than 90 percent of the WSA is within the UMNWSR corridor, located in a very rugged portion of the Missouri Breaks. None of this WSA was recommended for wilderness designation because of the combination of small size and configuration of the WSA which are affected by offsite sights and sounds and have a high potential for natural gas development. This WSA does contain isolated areas that offer outstanding opportunities for solitude, butdoes not contain outstanding primitive recreation opportunities.

Stafford WSA
The WSA covers 10,200 acres on the north side of the Missouri River. Approximately 5,060 acres along the southern boundary of the WSA lay within a wild segment of the UMNWSR corridor. None of this WSA was recommended for wilderness designation due to a variety of resource conflicts and manageability concerns including a high potential for natural gas development. The WSA contains few opportunities for outstanding solitude and primitive recreation. However, the area is very scenic and rugged, combining steep slopes with narrow ridges.

Ervin Ridge WSA
The WSA is on the south side of the Missouri River and contains 5,150 acres. Just over 3,900 acres are within the UMNWSR corridor. None of this WSA was recommended as suitable for wilderness designation due to the high potential for natural gas development and the potential for wilderness management conflicts. The small size of this area, along with terrain that opens to major off-site influences just beyond its boundaries, limits the opportunities for outstanding solitude to isolated areas in the deeper drainages. The area also lacks outstanding opportunities for primitive recreation, the scenic quality is lacking for designation.

Dog Creek WSA
This 8,100-acre WSA is on the south side of the Missouri River. About 3,500 acres of the WSA are within the UMNWSR corridor. None of the WSA was recommended as suitable for wilderness designation due to a combination of the unit’s small size, the a cherry-stemmed road running through the WSA, and several resource conflicts. It has a high potential for natural gas reserves. The WSA does not contain outstanding primitive and unconfined recreational opportunities, but does have colorful broken topography. It also contains several prehistoric occupation sites. During the steamboat era, woodhawkers
(wood cutters) cut timber to fuel steamboats plying the Missouri River. Chief Joseph’s Nez Perce Indians probably traversed the area in their attempt to escape to Canada in 1877.

Antelope Creek WSA
The WSA covers about 12,350 acres on the north side of the Missouri River. Of this total, 9,600 acres were recommended for wilderness. This WSA offers outstanding opportunities for solitude and provides a diversity of primitive recreational opportunities such as hiking, photography, hunting, and rock climbing. The area is rich in historical significance, including Kid Curry’s outlaw hideaway.