Federal Land Policy and Management Act

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The Federal Land Policy and Management Act, or FLPMA (Pub.L. 94–579), is a United States federal law that governs the way in which the public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management are managed. The law was enacted in 1976 by the 94th Congress and is found in the United States Code under Title 43. The Federal Land Policy and Management Act phased out homesteading in the United States by repealing the pre-existing Homestead Acts.

Congress recognized the value of the public lands, declaring that these lands would remain in public ownership. The National Forest Service, National Park Service, and now, the Bureau of Land Management, are commissioned in FLPMA to allow a variety of uses on their land (of greater concern for the BLM, who is the least restrictive in terms of uses) while simultaneously trying to preserve the natural resources in them. This concept is best summarized by the term 'multiple-use.' 'Multiple use' is defined in the Act as "management of the public lands and their various resource values so that they are utilized in the combination that will best meet the present and future needs of the American people." FLPMA addresses topics such as land use planning, land acquisition, fees and payments, administration of federal land, range management, and right-of-ways on federal land. FLPMA has specific objectives and time frames in which to accomplish these objectives, giving it more authority and eliminating the uncertainty surrounding the BLM’s role in wilderness designation and management.

Parts of FLPMA relating specifically to Wilderness are found under the heading Designated Management. Here, the BLM is also given power to designate Wilderness and are given 15 years to do so. The BLM is to conduct studies, classifying areas as 'Wilderness Study Areas.' These areas are not official Wilderness areas but are, for all intents and purposes, treated as such until formal adoption as Wilderness by Congress. Approximately 8.8 million acres of BLM wilderness are currently included in the National Wilderness Preservation System as a result of the wilderness reviews mandated by FLPMA. Those ordered to implement policies from FLPMA are trained government employees using guidelines expressly stated within the act itself.

Further legislation following FLPMA has continued to address these concerns as the needs of the American people have expanded to include natural resources such as oil in the Federal Land Use Policy Act of 1976.

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