Bureau of Land Management

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Bureau of Land Management
Bureau of Land Management Triangle
Flag of the United States Bureau of Land Management.svg
Flag of the Bureau of Land Management
Agency overview
Formed 1946
Preceding agencies U.S. Grazing Service
General Land Office
Jurisdiction United States federal government
Headquarters 1849 C Street NW, Rm. 5665 Washington, D.C. 20240
Employees 11,621 Permanent and 30,860 Volunteer (FY2012)
Annual budget $1,129,000,000 (FY2020 operating)
Agency executives Mike Pool, Acting Director
Janine Velasco, Acting Deputy Director (Operations)
Neil Kornze, Acting Deputy Director (Programs and Policy)
Parent agency U.S. Department of the Interior
Website blm.gov

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is an agency within the United States Department of the Interior that administers American public lands, totaling approximately 247.3 million acres, or one-eighth of the landmass of the country.[1] The BLM also manages 700 million acres (2,800,000 km2) of subsurface mineral estate underlying federal, state, and private lands. Most public lands are located in western states, especially Alaska. With approximately 11,600 permanent employees and close to 2,000 seasonal employees, this works out to over 21,000 acres (85 km2) per employee. The agency's budget was US$1,129,000,000 for 2012 ($4.59 per surface acre).[2] The 2014 budget request is expected to increase the Bureau's budget by approximately three percent.

The BLM's Mission is: 'To sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.'


Horses crossing a plain near the Simpson Park Wilderness Study Area in central Nevada, managed by the Battle Mountain BLM Field Office
Snow covered cliffs of Snake River Canyon, Idaho, managed by the Boise District of the BLM

The BLM's roots go back to the Land Ordinance of 1785 and the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. These laws provided for the survey and settlement of the lands that the original 13 colonies ceded to the federal government after the American Revolution. As additional lands were acquired by the United States from Spain, France and other countries, the United States Congress directed that they be explored, surveyed, and made available for settlement. During the Revolutionary War, military bounty land was promised to soldiers who fought for the colonies. After the War, a treaty was signed with England, France, and Spain, ceding several territories to the United States. In the 1780s, the states ceded their own claims to land in modern Ohio. By this time, the United States needed revenue to survive. It was decided that land would be sold so that the government would have money to survive. In order to sell the land, surveys needed to be conducted. The Land Ordinance of 1785 instructed geographer to oversee the surveying of this land by a group of surveyors. The first years of surveying were completed by trial and error; once the territory of Ohio had been surveyed the modern public land survey system had been developed.[3] In 1812, Congress established the General Land Office in the Department of the Treasury to oversee the disposition of these federal lands.

Beginning in the early 1800s, promised bounty land claims were finally fulfilled. Over the years, several dozen other bounty land and homestead laws were enacted to dispose of federal land. Several different types of patents existed. These include cash entry, credit, homestead, Indian, military warrants, mineral certificates, private land claims, railroads, state selections, swamp, town site, and town lots. A system of local land offices spread throughout the territories, patenting land that was surveyed via the corresponding Surveyor General’s office of a particular territory. This system gradually spread across the entire United States.[3] With the exception of the Mining Law of 1872 and the Desert Land Act of 1877 (which was amended), all have since been repealed or superseded by other statutes.[citation needed]

Sheep graze on BLM land in Snake Valley, Utah.

In the early 20th century, Congress took additional steps toward recognizing the value of the assets on public lands and directed the Executive Branch to manage activities on the remaining public lands. The Mineral Leasing Act of 1920 allowed leasing, exploration, and production of selected commodities, such as coal, oil, gas, and sodium to take place on public lands. The Taylor Grazing Act of 1934 established the U.S. Grazing Service to manage the public rangelands. The Oregon and California (O&C) Act of August 28, 1937, required sustained yield management of the timberlands in western Oregon.[citation needed]

In 1946, the Grazing Service was merged with the General Land Office (a product of the country's territorial expansion and the federal government's nineteenth-century homesteading policies) to form the Bureau of Land Management within the Department of the Interior. It took several years for this new agency to reorganize itself. In the end, the Bureau of Land Management become less focused on land disposal and more focused on the long term management and preservation of the land. Eventually, the agency reorganized itself into its current form by combining offices in the western states and creating an Eastern States office to handle all inquiries regarding land east of and alongside the Mississippi River. By this time, emphasis was placed upon the possibilities in the western states because most of the mining, land sales, and federally owned areas were located east of the Mississippi River.[4]

In FLPMA, Congress recognized the value of the remaining public lands by declaring that these lands would remain in public ownership. Congress used the term "multiple use" management, defined 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."[citation needed]

The land management policy of the federal government before 1946 involved on the one hand rapid disposal to miners, ranchers and farmers, and on the other hand reservations for national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, and military needs. The combination of 1946 of the General Land Office and the Grazing Service into the new Bureau of Land Management was filled with ambiguity. In terms of bureaucracy, there has been a constant tension between the local district rangers, who have typically been oriented toward the mining and ranching interests, and the centralized leadership in Washington that follows presidential guidance. Since the Reagan years of the 1980s, Republicans have emphasized local control giving priority to grazing, mining and petroleum production, while Democrats have emphasized environmentalism.[5]


Kokopelli petroglyph located on BLM land near Embudo, New Mexico
Most of the public lands held by the Bureau of Land Management are in the Western states. Alaska ranks first in total BLM acreage at 87 million acres (350,000 km2), while Nevada and Utah have the highest percentage of their lands under BLM management.[6]
BLM geodetic control point from 1950 in Colorado
BLM cadastral survey marker from 1992 in San Xavier, Arizona.

The BLM regulates activities in hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, boating, hang gliding, shooting, off-highway vehicle driving, mountain biking, birding, and visiting natural and cultural heritage sites. The BLM also regulates logging, mining, fracking and other activities.[citation needed]

The BLM administers 205,498 miles (330,717 km) of fishable streams, 2.2 million acres (8,900 km2) of lakes and reservoirs, 6,600 miles (10,600 km) of floatable rivers, over 500 boating access points, 69 National Back Country Byways, and 300 Watchable Wildlife sites. The BLM also manages 4,500 miles (7,200 km) of National Scenic, Historic, and Recreational Trails, as well as thousands of miles of multiple use trails used by motorcyclists, hikers, equestrians, and mountain bikers.[citation needed]

Of the BLM’s 247.3 million acres, the Bureau manages 55 million acres (220,000 km2) of forests and woodlands, including 11 million acres (45,000 km2) of commercial forest and 44 million acres (180,000 km2) of woodlands within 11 western States and Alaska. 53 million acres (210,000 km2) are productive forests and woodlands on Public Domain lands and 2.4 million acres (9,700 km2) are on Oregon and California Grant lands in western Oregon. Additionally, as part of its trust responsibility, the BLM oversees minerals operations on 56 million acres (230,000 km2) of Indian lands. In addition, the BLM also has a National Wild Horse and Burro Program in which it manages animals on public rangelands. Even though the BLM manages one of the largest amount of public land in the United States, resource protection of BLM public lands is being done on an on-going reduced budget, with uniformed law enforcement rangers patrolling an average of 1.45 million acres (5,900 km2) per ranger.[citation needed]

The BLM is a significant revenue producer to the United States budget. In 2009, public lands were expected to generate an estimated $6.2 billion in revenues, mostly from energy development. Nearly 43.5 percent of these receipts are provided directly to states and counties to support roads, schools, and other community needs.[7]

Increasingly, the BLM has had to address the needs of a growing and changing West. Ten of the 12 western states with significant proportions of BLM-managed lands have among the fastest rates of population growth in the United States.[citation needed]

One of the BLM's goals is to recognize the demands of public land users while addressing the needs of traditional user groups and working within smaller budgets. Perhaps one of the Bureau's greatest challenges is to develop more effective land management practices, while becoming more efficient at the same time.[citation needed]

The BLM has a wide range of responsibilities, including collecting geographic information, maintaining records of land ownership and mineral rights, conserving wilderness areas while allocating other areas for grazing and agriculture, and protecting cultural heritage sites on public land. The BLM operates the National Landscape Conservation System, which protects some U.S. National Monuments, some National Wild and Scenic Rivers, and some designated wildernesses among other types of areas including wilderness study areas.[citation needed]

Lightning-sparked wildfires are frequent occurrences on BLM land in Nevada.

The BLM is a major employer of wildland firefighters, range conservationists, foresters, botanists, land specialists, geologists, archaeologists, biologists, outdoor recreation planners, and surveyors.[citation needed]

The BLM was involved in the Bundy standoff.[citation needed]

Law enforcement and security[edit]

The BLM Office of Law Enforcement & Security, headquartered in Washington, D.C., is a federal law enforcement agency of the U.S. government. All Law Enforcement Rangers and Special Agents receive their training through Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC). Law Enforcement Rangers attend the Land Management Police Training (LMPT) academy at FLTEC, while BLM Special Agents attend the Criminal Investigator Training Program (CITP) at FLETC.[citation needed]

BLM Law Enforcement Rangers and Special Agents make up the law enforcement capability of the BLM. Rangers and Special Agents are located in each of the western states that have BLM lands. Law Enforcement Rangers make up the uniformed high visibility enforcement of laws. Special Agents investigate crimes against property, visitors and employees.[citation needed]

Uniformed Law Enforcement Rangers enforce Federal laws and regulations governing BLM lands and resources. Law Enforcement Rangers also enforce some or all state laws on BLM lands. As part of that mission Law Enforcement Rangers carry firearms, defensive equipment, make arrests, execute search warrants, complete reports and testify in court. They establish a regular and recurring presence on a vast amount of public lands, roads, and recreation sites. The primary focus of their jobs is the protection of natural resources, protection of BLM employees and the protection of visitors. They use K-9s, helicopters, snowmobiles, dirt bikes and boats to perform their duties.[citation needed]

Special Agents are criminal investigators who plan and conduct investigations concerning possible violations of criminal and administrative provisions of the BLM and other statutes under the United States Code. Special agents are normally plain clothes officers who carry concealed firearms, and other defensive equipment, make arrests, carry out complex criminal investigations, present cases for prosecution to U.S. Attorneys, and prepare investigative reports. Criminal investigators occasionally conduct internal and civil claim investigations.[citation needed]

Horses and burros[edit]

See also: Mustang (horse) and Burro
Mustangs run across Tule Valley, Utah

The BLM manages free-roaming horses and burros on public lands in 10 western states. They classify these animals as feral, but are also obligated to protect them under the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971. As horses have few natural predators, populations have grown substantially. BLM estimates that as of 2009, there were nearly 37,000 horses and burros on BLM-managed rangelands. The BLM claims that is 10,000 more animals than can exist in balance with other public rangeland resources and uses.[citation needed] BLM holds about 32,000 additional animals in long-and short term holding facilities and adopts out several thousand each year.[8]

The BLM conducts environmental assessments, detailed scientific documents designed to examine land and animal health, before each gather. After conducting these assessments, BLM determines how many horses it will remove from the range. In most cases, environmental assessments determine that horses must be removed because increasing herd numbers are damaging rangeland health, stream and river areas, and native wildlife habitat. In most Herd Management Areas throughout the arid West, food for horses quickly becomes scarce, especially during drought or long winters. Scientists[who?] have found that one horse can require up to 20 acres (81,000 m2) of rangeland to sustain nutritional health for one month.[citation needed]

The Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971, as amended, authorizes BLM to humanely put down horses for which no adoption demand exists.[9]

The BLM sometimes rounds up mustangs and then may sell them to people as pets or working horses. The ranches they are sold on receive inspections to see if the ranch is good enough for the horse. If a person has proof the mustang is their horse, they may recover their horse. After one year, the buyer of the horse is the official owner.[citation needed]

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar proposed on October 7, 2009, a new approach to restore the health of America’s wild horse herds and the public rangelands that support them.[10] His proposal includes the possible creation of "wild" horse preserves on the productive grasslands of the Midwest and East. Salazar also proposed showcasing certain herds on public lands in the West that warrant distinct recognition with Secretarial or possibly congressional designations and applying new strategies to balance population growth rates with adoption demand (such as the use of fertility control). The Salazar proposal, which is subject to congressional approval, includes making adoptions more flexible where appropriate to encourage more people to adopt horses.[citation needed]

Renewable energy coordination offices[edit]

In one of his last official acts of office, Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne has helped pave the way for his replacement, Ken Salazar, by authorizing the BLM to establish offices that will expedite renewable energy development on the National System of Public Lands. The new Renewable Energy Coordination Offices will expedite the permitting of wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal projects on BLM-managed lands, along with the electrical transmission facilities needed to deliver the energy from those projects to power-thirsty cities.[11]

The offices will initially be located in the four states where companies have shown the greatest interest in renewable energy development: Arizona, California, Nevada, and Wyoming. The new offices will also improve the BLM's coordination with state agencies and other federal agencies, including DOE and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.[11]

In October 2009, Interior Secretary Salazar and BLM Director Bob Abbey officially opened the California Renewable Energy Coordination Office and are staffing additional offices in Arizona, Nevada and Wyoming. To lead the overall initiative, Secretary Salazar has established a National Renewable Energy Office at BLM’s Headquarters in Washington D.C.[12]

The four Renewable Energy Coordinating Offices have 62 positions to support the processing of renewable energy and transmission applications. Thirty-five additional renewable energy support staff have been identified for BLM renewable permitting teams in the western states of Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, and Utah.[citation needed]

Energy transport corridors[edit]

The BLM and the U.S. Forest Service issued Records of Decision in mid-January to amend 130 of their land use plans to support the designation of more than 6,000 miles (9,700 km) of energy transport corridors on federal lands in 11 Western States. The amendments were based on analyses presented in a Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) that was prepared by the BLM, DOE and the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Defense as part of their work to implement the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The PEIS, released late last year, identifies energy corridors in the West for transmission and distribution lines that will help facilitate the development of renewable energy resources. The energy corridors could also carry pipelines for oil, natural gas, and hydrogen. Approximately 5,000 miles (8,000 km) of energy corridors are located on BLM-managed lands, while nearly 1,000 miles (1,600 km) of energy corridors are on U.S. Forest Service lands. Roughly 120 miles (190 km) of corridor segments are on lands managed by the Bureau of Reclamation, the National Park Service, and the Department of Defense.[11]

Western Energy Corridor[edit]

Tom Kaiserski, Montana with the Idaho National Laboratory developed a report on the "Western Energy Corridor that stretches from the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan down through Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah and Colorado," examining the "Western perspective to form an organization to represent these states and quantifies the energy resources in the footprint area."[13]

Oil shale leases[edit]

The BLM is currently reviewing its policies for leasing land for oil shale development. In March 2011, the BLM issued the following statement:

"As there are no economically viable ways yet known to extract and process oil shale for commercial purposes, and Utah tar sands deposits are not at present a proven commercially-viable energy source, the BLM, through its planning process, intends to take a hard look at whether it is appropriate for approximately 2,000,000 acres to remain available for potential development of oil shale, and approximately 431,224 acres of public land to remain available for potential development of tar sands."[14]



This article incorporates text from this agency's website.[specify]
  1. ^ Bureau of Land Management Public Land Statistics.
  2. ^ United States Department of the Interior Budget 2012
  3. ^ a b White, C. Albert (1991). A history of the rectangular survey system. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office. 
  4. ^ Muhn, J; Stuart, H.R. (1988). Opportunities and challenge: The story of the BLM. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office. 
  5. ^ James R. Skillen, The Nation's Largest Landlord (2009)
  6. ^ Western States Data Public Land Acreage (Forrest Service & BLM) from November 13, 2007
  7. ^ Department of the Interior FY 2009 Budget
  8. ^ "Questions and Answers on Secretary Salazar's Proposals". Blm.gov. 2011-08-19. Retrieved 2013-02-11. 
  9. ^ "National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board Meeting, Reno, NV" (PDF). U.S. Department of the Interior Website. U.S. Department of the Interior. 2008-06-30. Retrieved 03-08-2013.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  10. ^ "Salazar Seeks Congressional Support for Strategy to Manage Iconic Wild Horses". Blm.gov. 2010-09-14. Retrieved 2013-02-11. 
  11. ^ a b c US Department of Energy, Bureau of Land Management to Establish Renewable Energy Offices, January 21, 2009
  12. ^ US Department of Interior Press release 10/09/2009
  13. ^ Tom Kaiserski (2 April 2012). "Western Energy Corridor". Energy Promotion and Development Division Northern Task Force Meeting. Billings, MT: Montana Department of Commerce. 
  14. ^ http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2011/pdf/2011-9120.pdf
  15. ^ "Historical Record of the Offices, Managers and Organizations of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Grazing Service, General Land Office and O & C Revested Lands Administration 1934-2012". Public Lands Foundation. April 2012. p. 16. 
  16. ^ Johnson was the last Commissioner of the General Land Office (1933-1946)
  17. ^ Retired end of May, 2012 "BLM Director Bob Abbey to Retire After 34 Years of Public Service". Department of Interior. 2012-05-10. 

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