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The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is an agency within the United States Department of the Interiormarker which administers America's public lands, totaling approximately 264 million acres (1,070,000 km2) or one-eighth of the landmass of the country. Most public lands are located in western states. With approximately 9,000 permanent employees, and over 1,000 more temporary, this works out to over 26,000 acres (105 km2) per employee. Its budget is nearly $1 billion for 2007 ($3.50 per acre, $8.65 per hectare or $3.30 per person).

The BLM's stated mission is to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.


The BLM's pure 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 Spainmarker, Francemarker, and other countries, the United States 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 Treasurymarker to oversee the disposition of these Federal lands. As the nineteenth 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 With the exception of the Mining Law of 1872 and the Desert Land Act of 1877 (which was amended), all have since been repealed or superseded by other statutes.

The late nineteenth 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 decided that they should be held in public ownership because of their other resource values.

In the early twentieth 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 Oregonmarker and Californiamarker (O&C) Act of August 28, 1937, required sustained yield management of the timberlands in western Oregon.

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 Interiormarker. 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 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 Americanmarker people."

The BLM today

The BLM offers visitors opportunities in the following areas: hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, boating, hang gliding, shooting, off-highway vehicle driving, mountain biking, birding, and visiting natural and cultural heritage sites.

The BLM administers of fishable streams, 2.2 million acres (8,900 km²) of lakes and reservoirs, of floatable rivers, over 500 boating access points, 69 National Back Country Byways, and 300 Watchable Wildlife sites. The BLM also manages 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.

Of BLM’s 261 million acres (1,060,000 km²), 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 Alaskamarker. Fifty-three million acres (210,000 km²) are productive forests and woodlands on Public Domain lands and 2.4 million acres (9,700 km²) are on Oregonmarker and Californiamarker 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, BLM also has a National Wild Horse and Burro Program in which it manages animals on public rangelands. Even though BLM manages one of the largest amount of public land in the United States, resource protection of the our BLM public lands is being done by an on-going reduced budget, with one uniformed law enforcement ranger patrolling an average of 1.45 millions acres per ranger.

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

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 Statesmarker.

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.

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.

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

Law Enforcement & Security

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 marker. 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.

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.

Uniformed Law Enforcement Rangers enforce Federal laws and regulations governing BLM lands and resources. 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 dispense their duties.

Special Agents are criminal investigators who plan and conduct investigations concerning possible violations of criminal and administrative provisions of the BLM and other statues 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.

Wild Horses and Burros

The BLM manages wild horses and burros on public lands in 10 westernstates. As wild horses have no natural predators, populations have grownsubstantially. BLM estimates that as of 2009, there were nearly 37,000wild horses and burros on BLM-managed rangelands. That is 10,000 moreanimals than can exist in balance with other public rangeland resources anduses. BLM holds about 32,000 additional animals in long-and short termholding facilities and adopts out several thousand each year.[8670]

In June 2008, the BLM announced that it would consider euthanizingunadopted wild horses cared for in short-term corrals or long-term pasturesbecause of spiraling holding costs. The 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses andBurros Act, as amended, authorizes BLM to humanely put down horses forwhich no adoption demand exists. [8671]

Recognizing that the exercise of such authority is not acceptable to manyAmericans, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar proposed on October 7,2009, a new approach to restore the health of America’s wild horse herdsand the public rangelands that support them. [8672]His proposal includes thepossible creation of wild horse preserves on the productive grasslands ofthe Midwest and East. Salazar also proposed showcasing certain herds onpublic lands in the West that warrant distinct recognition with Secretarialor possibly congressional designations and applying new strategies tobalance population growth rates with adoption demand (such as the use offertility control). The Salazar proposal, which is subject tocongressional approval, includes making adoptions more flexible whereappropriate to encourage more people to adopt horses.

Renewable Energy Coordination Offices

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 .

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.

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. [8673]

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.

Energy Transport Corridors

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 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 of energy corridors are located on BLM-managed lands, while nearly of energy corridors are on U.S. Forest Service lands. Roughly of corridor segments are on lands managed by the Bureau of Reclamation, the National Park Service, and the Department of Defense .

On December 19, 2008, a BLM land drilling auction was disrupted when a University of Utah student, Tim DeChristopher, successfully outbid other organizations for thousands of acres of land.


  1. Bureau of Land Management. This article incorporates text from this agency's website.
  2. DOI 2007 Budget Key Numbers
  3. Western States Data Public Land Acreage
  4. Department of the Interior FY 2009 Budget
  6. Salt Lake Tribune, Jan 4, 2009

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