|Formed||December 10, 1946|
|Jurisdiction||United States federal government|
|Headquarters||1849 C Street NW, Washington DC 20240|
|Annual budget||$1.31 billion (FY2021)|
|Parent agency||U.S. Department of the Interior|
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is an agency within the United States Department of the Interior responsible for administering federal lands. Headquartered in Washington DC, and with oversight over 247.3 million acres (1,001,000 km2), it governs one eighth of the country's landmass.
President Harry S. Truman created the BLM in 1946 by combining two existing agencies: the General Land Office and the Grazing Service. The agency manages the federal government's nearly 700 million acres (2,800,000 km2) of subsurface mineral estate located beneath federal, state and private lands severed from their surface rights by the Homestead Act of 1862. Most BLM public lands are located in these 12 western states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.
The mission of the BLM is "to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations." Originally BLM holdings were described as "land nobody wanted" because homesteaders had passed them by. All the same, ranchers hold nearly 18,000 permits and leases for livestock grazing on 155 million acres (630,000 km2) of BLM public lands. The agency manages 221 wilderness areas, 27 national monuments and some 636 other protected areas as part of the National Conservation Lands (formerly known as the National Landscape Conservation System), totaling about 36 million acres (150,000 km2). In addition the National Conservation Lands include nearly 2,400 miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers, and nearly 6,000 miles of National Scenic and Historic Trails. There are more than 63,000 oil and gas wells on BLM public lands. Total energy leases generated approximately $5.4 billion in 2013, an amount divided among the Treasury, the states, and Native American groups.
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 Thirteen 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, the Treaty of Paris of 1783, signed by the United States, the UK, France, and Spain, ceded territory to the United States. In the 1780s, other states relinquished their own claims to land in modern-day Ohio. By this time, the United States needed revenue to function and land was sold as a source of income for the government. In order to sell the land, surveys needed to be conducted. The Land Ordinance of 1785 instructed a geographer to oversee this work as undertaken by a group of surveyors. The first years of surveying were completed by trial and error; once the territory of Ohio had been surveyed, a modern public land survey system had been developed. In 1812, Congress established the General Land Office as part of the Department of the Treasury to oversee the disposition of these federal lands. By the early 1800s, promised bounty land claims were finally fulfilled.
In the 19th century, 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, swamps, town sites, and town lots. A system of local land offices spread throughout the territories, patenting land that was surveyed via the corresponding Office of the Surveyor General of a particular territory. This pattern gradually spread across the entire United States. The laws that spurred this system with the exception of the General Mining Law of 1872 and the Desert Land Act of 1877 have since been repealed or superseded.
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 United States Grazing Service to manage the public rangelands by establishment of advisory boards that set grazing fees. The Oregon and California Revested Lands Sustained Yield Management Act of 1937, commonly referred as the O&C Act, 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. It took several years for this new agency to integrate and reorganize. In the end, the Bureau of Land Management became less focused on land disposal and more focused on the long term management and preservation of the land. The agency achieved its current form by combining offices in the western states and creating a corresponding office for lands both east of and alongside the Mississippi River. As a matter of course, the BLM's emphasis fell on activities in the western states as most of the mining, land sales, and federally owned areas are located west of the Mississippi.
BLM personnel on the ground have typically been oriented toward local interests, while bureau management in Washington are led by presidential guidance. By means of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, Congress created a more unified bureau mission and recognized the value of the remaining public lands by declaring that these lands would remain in public ownership. The law directed that these lands be managed with a view toward "multiple use" 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."
Since the Reagan administration in the 1980s, Republicans have often given priority to local control and to grazing, mining and petroleum production, while Democrats have more often emphasized environmental concerns even when granting mining and drilling leases. In September 1996, then President Bill Clinton used his authority under the Antiquities Act to establish the Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument in southern Utah, the first of now 20 national monuments established on BLM lands and managed by the agency. The establishment of Grand Staircase–Escalante foreshadowed later creation of the BLM's National Landscape Conservation System in 2000. Use of the Antiquities Act authority, to the extent it effectively scuttled a coal mine to have been operated by Andalex Resources, delighted recreation and conservation enthusiasts but set up larger confrontations with state and local authorities.
Under the Trump administration, the BLM offered millions of acres of available Federal lands for 10-year leases for commercial development, potentially in oil and gas and mining, with the stated goal of "promoting American energy security". The BLM holds quarterly oil and gas lease sales. According to a June 18, 2018 article in The Atlantic, under the tenure of then-United States Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke "practically gave away hundreds of thousands of acres of open land across the West, leasing it to energy companies for pennies on the dollar." The Salt Lake Tribune reported that in March 2019, the price per acre for leases near the Golden Spike National Historical Park, in Utah were "$1.50 an acre for the next two years". By September 11, 2018, the Department of Interior was offering 2.9 million acres to be leased to commercial operations including drilling for oil and gas and mining in New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, and other states where public land is not protected by a national park or monument designation. The BLM's May 30, 2019 statement proposed an additional 183,668 acres on "lands managed by the Canyon Country, Color Country, Green River, and West Desert districts" that would be listed for the quarterly oil and gas lease sale on September 10, 2019. In their May 2019, September lease offerings, the BLM said that they had "245 million acres of public land located primarily in 12 Western states, including Alaska" and across the United States another "700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate" is under their management. The statement also said that these "diverse activities authorized on these lands generated $96 billion in sales of goods and services throughout the American economy in fiscal year 2017" while supporting over 468,000 jobs".
On August 4, 2020, President Trump signed the Great American Outdoors Act into law, committing up to $1.9 billion from energy development revenues to the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund each year for five years for needed maintenance for critical facilities and infrastructure in national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, recreation areas and American Indian schools. The Act also committed $900 million a year in royalties from offshore oil and natural gas to permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund investments in conservation and recreation opportunities across the country.
Also in August 2020, the BLM headquarters was relocated to Grand Junction, Colorado, by an order signed by Interior Secretary David Bernhardt. The relocation was praised by Republican Western politicians but criticized by Democrats as a move to weaken the agency through the loss of experienced staffers, who opted to stay in Washington, D.C. Some ranchers were concerned about the isolation of Grand Junction compared to other Western cities, having limited flights and road access. After the announcement, 87% of D.C.-based employees left, prompting former lead career BLM official Steve Ellis to state "the bureau lost a tremendous amount of expertise...[of] very seasoned people."
On September 17, 2021, Secretary Deb Haaland announced that the headquarters would be moved back to Washington, D.C.
Under the Biden administration, the BLM is working on a pilot project called "outcomes-based grazing," to see if cattle grazing can help achieve conservation, agency director Tracy Stone-Manning said in an interview published in April 2022.
In June of 2022, the BLM finalized two acquisitions in Colorado and Wyoming, acquiring over 40,000 acres of previously inaccessible land. The acquisition in Wyoming for 35,670 acres is the agency's largest ever purchase in the state.
Established in 2000, the National Landscape Conservation System is overseen by the BLM. The National Landscape Conservation System lands constitute just about 12% of the lands managed by the BLM. Congress passed Title II of the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-11) to make the system a permanent part of the public lands protection system in the United States. By designating these areas for conservation, the law directed the BLM to ensure these places are protected for future generations, similar to national parks and wildlife refuges.
|Category||Unit type||Number||BLM acres||BLM miles|
|National Conservation Lands||National Monuments||27||5,590,135 acres (22,622.47 km2)|
|National Conservation Lands||National Conservation Areas||16||3,671,519 acres (14,858.11 km2)|
|National Conservation Lands||Areas Similar to National Conservation Areas||5||436,164 acres (1,765.09 km2)|
|Wilderness||Wilderness Areas||221||8,711,938 acres (35,255.96 km2)|
|Wilderness||Wilderness Study Areas||528||12,760,472 acres (51,639.80 km2)|
|National Wild and Scenic Rivers||National Wild and Scenic Rivers||69||1,001,353 acres (4,052.33 km2)||2,423 miles (3,899 km)|
|National Trails System||National Historic Trails||13||5,078 miles (8,172 km)|
|National Trails System||National Scenic Trails||5||683 miles (1,099 km)|
|Totals||877||About 36 million acres (150,000 km2) (some units overlap)||8,184 miles (13,171 km)|
Source: BLM Resources and Statistics
The BLM, through its Office of Law Enforcement & Security, functions as a federal law enforcement agency of the United States Government. BLM law enforcement rangers and special agents receive their training through Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers (FLETC). Full-time staffing for these positions approaches 300.
Uniformed rangers enforce laws and regulations governing BLM lands and resources. As part of that mission, these BLM rangers carry firearms and defensive equipment, make arrests, execute search warrants, complete reports and testify in court. They seek to establish a regular and recurring presence on a vast amount of public lands, roads and recreation sites. They focus on the protection of natural and cultural resources, other BLM employees and visitors. Given the many locations of BLM public lands, these rangers use canines, helicopters, snowmobiles, dirt bikes and boats to perform their duties.
By contrast BLM 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 local United States Attorneys and prepare investigative reports. Criminal investigators occasionally conduct internal and civil claim investigations.
See also: Mustang, Burro, Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971, and List of BLM Herd Management Areas
The BLM manages free-roaming horses and burros on public lands in ten western states. Though they are feral, the agency is obligated to protect them under the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 (WFRHBA). As the horses have few natural predators, populations have grown substantially. WFRHBA as enacted provides for the removal of excess animals; the destruction of lame, old, or sick animals; the private placement or adoption of excess animals; and even the destruction of healthy animals if range management required it. The destruction of healthy or unhealthy horses has almost never occurred. Pursuant to the Public Rangelands Improvement Act of 1978, the BLM has established 179 "herd management areas" (HMAs) covering 31.6 million acres (128,000 km2) acres where feral horses can be found on federal lands.
In 1973, BLM began a pilot project on the Pryor Mountains Wild Horse Range known as the Adopt-A-Horse initiative. The program took advantage of provisions in the WFRHBA to allow private "qualified" individuals to "adopt" as many horses as they wanted if they could show that they could provide adequate care for the animals. At the time, title to the horses remained permanently with the federal government. The pilot project was so successful that BLM allowed it to go nationwide in 1976. The Adopt-a-Horse program quickly became the primary method of removing excess feral horses from BLM land given the lack of other viable methods. The BLM also uses limited amounts of contraceptives in the herd, in the form of PZP vaccinations; advocates say that additional use of these vaccines would help to diminish the excess number of horses currently under BLM management.
Despite the early successes of the adoption program, the BLM has struggled to maintain acceptable herd levels, as without natural predators, herd sizes can double every four years. As of 2014, there were more than 49,000 horses and burros on BLM-managed land, exceeding the BLM's estimated "appropriate management level" (AML) by almost 22,500.
The Bureau of Land Management has implemented several programs and has developed partnerships as part of their management plan for preserving wild burros and horses in the United States. There are several herds of horses and burros roaming free on 26.9 million acres of range spread out in ten western states. It is essential to maintain a balance that keeps herd management land and animal population healthy. Some programs and partnerships include the Mustang Heritage Foundation, U.S. Border Patrol, Idaho 4H, Napa Mustang Days and Little Book Cliffs Darting Team. These partnerships help with adoption and animal population as well as education and raising awareness about wild horses and burros.
In 2009, BLM opened Renewable Energy Coordination Offices in order to approve and oversee wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal projects on BLM-managed lands. The offices were located in the four states where energy companies had shown the greatest interest in renewable energy development: Arizona, California, Nevada, and Wyoming.
|Directors of the BLM 1946–present|
|Fred W. Johnson||1946–1948|
|Burton W. Silcock||1971–1973|
|Robert F. Burford||1981–1989|
1994 – 1996
|Robert Abbey||2009 – 2012|
|Mike Pool||2012–2013 (acting)|
|Neil Kornze||2013 (acting)|
|Kristin Bail||2017 (acting)|
|Michael Nedd||2017 (acting)|
|Brian Steed||2017–2019 (acting)|
|William Perry Pendley||2019–2021 (acting)|
|Nada Wolff Culver||2021 (acting)|
((cite web)): CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)