Our Lands

From towering forests to lush green grasslands, our nation's diverse and wondrous lands serve as essential habitat for wildlife, support thriving communities, and underpin vital economic activities.

Conservation and sustainable management of America’s lands—public and private—is key to sustaining wildlife and reversing widespread declines among the nation’s species. The National Wildlife Federation is committed to working across the entire landscape to protect, restore, and connect wildlife habitats and to promote conservation and management approaches that work for both people and wildlife.

America’s expansive network of parks, refuges, and other protected areas is a cornerstone of modern wildlife conservation and a global model for biodiversity protection. The value and importance of these protected lands continues to grow in the face of continued loss and degradation of natural habitats, as well as the emergence of new threats to wildlife, such as a rapidly changing climate. The National Wildlife Federation is committed to safeguarding and connecting protected areas nationwide to sustain and restore healthy fish and wildlife populations.

Our work also seeks to ensure that “working lands” outside of protected areas are managed in ways conducive to wildlife. Indeed, nearly two-thirds of land in the United States is used for production activities such as farming, grazing, and active forestry. We want to ensure that these activities, while vital to our economy and way of life, are better balanced with the needs of wildlife and their habitats. We are the voice for wildlife in efforts to ensure that our lands meets the needs of both people and nature.


Protecting Resources on Private Lands

Roughly 902 million acres—or a little more than 50 percent of the lower 48 United States—are currently managed as cropland, pastureland, or rangeland. These working lands provide crucial habitat for our nation's fish and wildlife, protect our water resources, and help mitigate climate change, while also meeting demands for food, fiber, fuel, and animal feed. The National Wildlife Federation encourages farmers to adopt more resilient practices, such as no till, diverse crop rotations, rotational grazing, manure management, and cover crops to increase profits and protect the land.

Another way that National Wildlife Federation promotes practices that benefit farmers is through working with Cover Crop Champions, peer-to-peer outreach leaders teamed up with outreach professionals who provide region-specific information and farming knowledge to farmers and crop advisors. Champions are financially and technically supported by National Wildlife Federation, enabling them to share their expertise and passion for cover crops with farmers in their area.

At the local, state, and federal levels, the National Wildlife Federation is striving to conserve wildlife habitats. Through its advocacy on the Farm Bill, one of the largest sources of conservation funding in the federal government, the National Wildlife Federation ensures that U.S. Department of Agriculture conservation programs are authorized at appropriate levels, structured to achieve maximum wildlife and environmental benefits, and fully funded during the annual appropriations process. This is vital to our 21st-century land management strategies.

In order to protect our rapidly declining native grasslands, waterways, and the wildlife that depend on them, the National Wildlife Federation is also working to fix the flawed federal ethanol mandate that's led to soaring demand for corn. Though its intent was to foster cleaner fuels, the mandate has contributed to habitat destruction and contaminated drinking water over the last decade, threatening wildlife and our human health.

More than half of forests in the United States are in private ownership, and these forests provide a tremendous diversity of wildlife habitat. The National Wildlife Federation promotes the conservation and sustainable use of our nation’s forest lands. Partnering with our state affiliates, we have been helping private landowners in the Southeast manage and restore longleaf pine forests, a forest type that now covers less than 3 percent of its original range. The Federation is also active in elevating the role of forests in absorbing and storing carbon to fight climate change, and is working aggressively to halt tropical deforestation tied to the production of agricultural commodities like soy, palm oil, and leather.

Native grasslands are among the nation’s most rapidly declining habitats, and grassland-dependent birds and other wildlife are experiencing some of the steepest declines. Through our Wildlife Conflict Resolution program, the National Wildlife Federation uses a voluntary, market-based approach to retire grazing allotments where conflicts exist between livestock and wildlife. With the retirement of these allotments, we are securing vital habitat for wildlife and giving ranchers funds to relocate cattle to areas without such conflicts. The National Wildlife Federation also holds a biennial America's Grasslands Conference, bringing together researchers, natural resource professionals, farmers and ranchers, policy experts, and conservationists to discuss current issues related to the conservation of North America’s vanishing grasslands.

person at Badlands National Park

Protecting Our Public Lands

Americans share ownership of approximately 600 million acres of land and water in the United States. These public lands include federal designations like national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, and monuments, as well as state and local areas owned by the public. These lands are critical to the survival of many of our most cherished wildlife species and endangered species and form the backbone of the nation’s protected area network. The National Wildlife Federation is committed to safeguarding these special places and other landscapes that provide habitat for wildlife and opportunities for families, wildlife watchers, sportsmen and sportswomen, and others to recreate and reconnect with nature. The Federation played a key role in passage of the Great American Outdoors Act, which permanently and fully funds the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the nation's premier program for protecting crucial ecosystems and acquiring new places for outdoor recreation.

The National Wildlife Federation works to defend our nation’s cherished public lands from threats of transfer, privatization, or sell-off. We also work to redefine how energy development that occurs on public lands can be carried out in ways that also sustain fish, wildlife, water resources, and outdoor recreation opportunities. The Federation fights against inappropriate energy development and resource extraction in places that are crucial for wildlife, such as Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and Tongass National Forest. We also work to make sure that as the nation expands renewable energy to address the climate crisis, that infrastructure is sited and operated in ways that sustain wildlife and minimize ecological damage. The National Wildlife Federation is also advocating for a national program to clean up orphaned and abandoned oil and gas wells, which leak climate-altering methane gas, and has been pushing to reform the badly outdated 1872 Mining Law in order to strengthen protections for fish, wildlife and water resources on our public lands.

America’s national forests, which cover 193 million acres, provide an array of benefits to people and wildlife, from habitat and outdoor recreation, to drinking water sources, wood products, and natural carbon storage. Unfortunately, many of our national forests are in poor condition, a situation made worse by accelerating climate change, and more than 80 million acres of national forest lands are in urgent need of restoration. The National Wildlife is working with partners to accelerate the pace and scale of climate-informed and ecologically appropriate restoration on our national forests. We are promoting policies and practices designed to reduce growing wildfire risks as well as provide clean water, sustain healthy wildlife populations, and enhance the capacity of our public forests to store carbon and serve as a “natural climate solutions.”

Climate change poses a grave risk to our national parks, forests, and refuges, and to the species and ecosystems they support. To address the growing impact of a changing climate on our lands, waters, and wildlife, The National Wildlife Federation working with federal agency partners developed an innovative planning approach known as climate-smart conservation.” Working with agencies such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Federation offers climate adaptation training to federal and state land managers, and has created tailored adaptation guides for resource managers in the National Park Service and Department of Defense.

bison on tribal land

Preserving Tribal Lands


The National Wildlife Federation serves as a partner and ally to sovereign Tribal governments to ensure that their natural resource goals are achieved in a manner that also addresses associated socioeconomic and environmental justice issues. Tribes own or influence the management of a natural resource base of nearly 140 million acres, including more than 730,000 acres of lakes and reservoirs, over 10,000 miles of streams and rivers, and over 18 million acres of forested lands. Tribal lands provide vital habitat for more than 525 federally-listed threatened and endangered plants and animals, many of which are both biologically and culturally significant to Tribes. The National Wildlife Federation engages in conservation partnerships by seeking common ground and authentic collaboration with Tribes that ensures the protection of vulnerable wildlife and habitat while advancing other tribal priorities such as environmental justice.

For generations, Indigenous communities have wisely stewarded the natural resources of North America through their knowledge, culture, and practice. NWF recognizes that achieving the conservation and climate goals of the 21st century requires better understanding and recognition of this stewardship, reaffirmation of Tribal rights for resource conservation, and ensuring sufficient resources and capacity for policy advancements and on-the-ground-efforts. Learn more about our Tribal and Indigenous Partnership Enhancement Strategy.

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Where We Work

More than one-third of U.S. fish and wildlife species are at risk of extinction in the coming decades. We're on the ground in seven regions across the country, collaborating with 52 state and territory affiliates to reverse the crisis and ensure wildlife thrive.

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Regional Centers and Affiliates