Bureau of Land Management
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) was established in 1946 through the consolidation of the General Land Office (created in 1812) and the U.S. Grazing Service (formed in 1934). The functions of the BLM are also addressed in the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA).
The BLM is responsible for carrying out a variety of programs for the management and conservation, of resources on 253 million surface acres, as well as 700 million acres of subsurface mineral estate, These public lands make up about 13 percent of the total land surface of the United States and more than 40 percent of all land managed by the Federal government.
Most of the public lands are located in the Western United States, including Alaska, and are characterized predominantly by extensive grassland, forest, high mountain, arctic tundra, and desert landscapes. The BLM manages multiple resources and uses, including energy and minerals; timber; forage; recreation; wild horse and burro herds; fish and wildlife habitat; wilderness areas; and archaeological, paleontological, and historical sites. In addition to its minerals management responsibilities noted above, the BLM administers mineral leasing and oversees mineral operations on Federal mineral estate underlying other state, private, or Federally-administered land, and manages most mineral operations on Indian lands.
The public lands provide significant economic benefits to the Nation and to states and counties where these lands are located. Revenues generated from public lands make BLM one of the top revenue-generating agencies in the Federal government. In 2007, for instance, BLM’s onshore mineral leasing activities will generate an estimated $4.5 billion in receipts from royalties, bonuses, and rentals that are collected by the Minerals Management Service. Approximately half of these revenues will be returned to the States where the mineral leasing occurred.
The Bureau administers about 57 million acres of commercial forests and woodlands through the Management of Lands and Resources and the Oregon and California Grant Lands appropriations. Timber receipts (including salvage) are estimated to be $55.4 million in fiscal year 2007, compared to estimated receipts of $33 million in Fiscal Year 2006 and actual receipts of $13.5 million in Fiscal Year 2005.
Under its multiple-use management mandate, the Bureau administers more than 18,000 grazing permits and leases and nearly 13 million authorized livestock animal unit months on 160 million acres of public rangeland. BLM manages rangelands and facilities for 57,000 wild horses and burros. The 253 million acres of public land administered by the BLM includes over 117,000 miles of fisheries habitat.
The Bureau has an active program of soil and watershed management on 175 million acres in the lower 48 states and 86 million acres in Alaska. Practices such as revegetation, protective fencing, and water development are designed to conserve, enhance public land, including soil and watershed resources. The BLM is also responsible for fire protection on public lands and on all Interior Department in Alaska, as well as for wildfire management on the public lands on the public lands in Alaska and the Western States.
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 War of Independence.
As additional lands were acquired by the United States from Spain, France, and other countries, Congress directed that they be explored, surveyed, and made available for settlement. In 1812, Congress established the General Land Office in the Department of the Treasury to oversee the disposition of these Federal lands. As the 19th century progressed and the Nation's land base expanded further west, Congress encouraged the settlement of the land by enacting a wide variety of laws, including the Homesteading Laws and the Mining Law of 1872.
These statutes served one of the major policy goals of the young country: settlement of the Western territories. 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 superceded by other statutes.
The late 19th century marked a shift in Federal land management priorities with the creation of the first national parks, forests, and wildlife refuges. By withdrawing these lands from settlement, Congress signaled a shift in the policy goals served by the public lands. Instead of using them to promote settlement, Congress recognized that they should be held in public ownership because of their other resource values.
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. And the Oregon and California Act of 1937 required sustained yield management of the timberlands in western Oregon.
In 1946, the Grazing Service was merged with the General Land Office to form the Bureau of Land Management within the Department of the Interior. When the BLM was initially created, there were over 2,000 unrelated and often conflicting laws for managing the public lands. The BLM had no unified legislative mandate until Congress enacted the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA).
In FLPMA, Congress recognized the value of the remaining public lands by declaring that these lands would remain in public ownership. Congress also gave us 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."