The Purpose Of The Bureau Of Land Management

Bureau of Land ManagementThe Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is an agency within the United States Department of the Interior that administers more than 247.3 million acres of public lands in the United States which constitutes one-eighth of the landmass of the country.  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 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 Bureau of Land Management is "to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations."  Ranchers hold nearly 18,000 permits and leases for livestock grazing on 155 million acres of BLM public lands.  The agency manages 221 wilderness areas, 23 national monuments and some 636 other protected areas as part of the National Landscape Conservation System and there are more than 63,000 oil and gas wells on BLM public lands.

The History Of The Bureau Of Land Management

Fed Lands-USGSThe 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.

Over the years, other bounty land and homestead laws were enacted to dispose of federal land.  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

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.

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.  The Bureau of Land Management became less focused on land disposal and more focused on the long term management and preservation of the land.  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.  The Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 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."