Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Bureau of Land Managment

Backroads Information-Bureau of Land Management

We will review the major land management agencies in detail starting with the largest public land agency in the United States.  The Bureau of Land Managment was founded with the merging of the General Land Office and the US Grazing Service in 1946.   However, Congress did not pass their Organic Act until 1976 with the passage of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act.  Even the BLM Organic Act included lots of Congressional direction for their big brother the Forest Service.

I transfered from the Forest Service to the BLM in 1980.   The Forest Service has the Forest Manual and Handbook System.  A set of written policies and procedures to insure that Forest Service employees tend to ALL do the SAME thing across the country.  They literally cover the entire office wall in most Forest Service offices.   The first day a BLM employee asked me about working for the Forest Service and I said it seems similar to BLM. For example I pointed to RED as opposed to GREEN manual system that BLM had in the office.   Well, it is different he replied and then started opening the RED BLM manuals.  They were all empty.
I don't know if BLM finally filled those books with paper, but it did enjoy working for a government agency where you did NOT have to first consult several hundred pages!!

The BLM manages 253 million acres of Federal land.  That is equivalent to a land area equivalent to two and a half California's.  That is a lot of land.  BLM has 10,000 employees and a budget of nearly a billion dollars.  They return 6.2 billion dollars in revenue to the Federal treasury primarily from oil and gas leasing of BLM managed lands.

BLM has a national office in Washington DC, State offices in those states with significant BLM acreage, District offices in the larger towns, and Area offices which are sometimes found in the same building as the District office or detached area offices in towns closer to the public lands.

BLM is more political than the Forest Service.  Sometimes their  Director will be a political appointment, while with other administrations it can be a career BLM employee.  Some administrations have also appointed political friends into the State Director position.  The natural resource professional positions make up the majority of the BLM workforce.

Each BLM state offices tend to be oriented towards the major issues in those states.  For example, in Montana and Wyoming oil and gas leasing is probably the most important BLM managment program.  In Idaho, it is primarily grazing.  Oregon is Forestry west of the Cascades and grazing east of the mountains.  The primary recreation focus is in southern California and western Arizona.

Recreation has never been a primary program for BLM.  However, they have done a good job with the money they have been given by Congress.  The BLM recreation program is managed by Outdoor Recreation Planners at the District and Area offices.  This is who you should ask to speak to when you need more information than the front desk can provide.  I always appreciated the "interruptions" when I was working.  I gave me a chance to talk to the people I was working for and make sure that we were providing a service that the American people wanted.

I did work for BLM in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho in 1980 and 1981.   I got to build a campground without spending any Congressional dollars.  Those BLM folks always knew how to get things done.

This is Huckleberry Campground on the St. Joe River in Idaho.  In 1980, the Federal Highway Administration was rebuilding that highway above the campground and wanted to put four feet of fill material into the flat.  I quickly sold 30 cottonwood trees to a logger from St. Maries for thirty dollars, since they were probably going to die with that much fill on their roots.  One day I went down with my assistant and we laid in the road and the spurs with the unheard of length of 55 to 65 feet!  I then asked the Highway Administration to put down a rock base between my markers and make me a little loop road with those funny little spurs.  

So for a couple days work and a thirty dollar profit for the trees we built a campground.  I have noticed that the BLM has invested more money into the campground over the years by paving the little loop road and adding electricity to the sites.   Here is the link:  Huckleberry Campground.

Hopefully, soon I will be able to return to camp there and remember those wonderful days of being a field Forester.

The BLM  manages the Long-Term Visitor Areas in California and Arizona.  Here is additional information and the location of the LTVA's:  Long-Term Visitor Areas.  This was BLM's response to the increasing snowbird use in the southwest deserts.  The agency deserves credit for protecting the desert environment while at the same time providing for public use and enjoyment.  The LTVA's are an example of pretty creative thinking.

Recreation is part of BLM's multiple use mandate from Congress.  They do a pretty good job, given the limited funds and emphasis from Congress.  Oh well, those oil and gas leases, timber sales, and grazing leases are more important to Congress, but recreation is what people really appreciate about BLM.

Explore the BLM lands through the web.  Here is the national office site from this you can jump to local areas:  BLM Recreation WebSite.  I am always surprised by the "new" areas that I discover just by cruising the net.  Then go out there and visit YOUR PUBLIC LANDS.

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