Report: Public Lands, We the People

Benjamin Drummond

Public lands in the United States are natural allies in efforts to address climate change, wildlife loss and to improve community health via access to nature.

Their sheer scale, scope and reach offer the unmatched potential to absorb large amounts of carbon emissions, provide habitat for wildlife need to survive and adapt to rising temperatures, and create space for people and communities to flourish.

Unfortunately, public lands in America are not managed in a way that prioritizes addressing these crises.

We must reimagine a management system for our shared lands that benefits nature and communities.

In the summer of 2020, the Aspen Institute and The Wilderness Society convened a series of public conversations to explore how our public lands can contribute to solving the climate and biodiversity crises, as well as help address the racial inequities we face in our country.

We also enlisted ideas on how to reignite a more robust public participation in how land management decisions are made in the country.


As a result, we recorded a series of panel discussions and published the report below entitled Public Lands, We the People: Creating a Healthy and Just Future for All.

Panel 1: A Bold Solution to the Climate Crisis: Public Lands

The first installment in the series explored the ways we can – and must – manage our public lands to be an essential part of a national strategy to combat climate change and biodiversity loss, improve community health, and ensure all people can enjoy nature’s benefits.

Panel 2: Local Parks to Public Lands: Access for Communities, By Communities

During the second session of the series, experts in the realms of community-led park development, open space and public lands came together to share recent efforts that move communities closer to achieving equitable access to the outdoors and their co-benefits.

Panel 3: Connecting the Continent: Conservation that Unites People, Lands and Wildlife

The third and final session in the virtual series focused on the role of national public lands in sustaining a resilient natural network that will help human communities, wildlife, pollinators and the larger web of life to thrive in the face of habitat loss and climate change.


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If appropriately managed, public lands can become a natural tool to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, halt biodiversity loss, improve community health and wellbeing, create new sustainable economic opportunities, and enhance the resilience of natural systems.