60 years of the BLM

Part 1 - Building a Nation

[Text from History of the BLM video, part 1]

Slide #1 History/Building a Nation

  • The 60th anniversary of the Bureau of Land Management is a good time for a glimpse at our national history and the important role public lands have played in the development of the United States.

Slide #2 Building a Nation

  • First, Let’s go back to 1787 and a peek in the backdoor of the Constitutional Convention at Independence Hall in Philadelphia.
  • 55 delegates representing the 13 colonies gathered to frame the Constitution.

Slide #3 Original 13 Colonies

  • One key issue was deciding how to deal with “western lands” - the territory between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River.
  • The issue threatened the bonds that held the new nation together.
  • Seven states -- Virginia, Massachusetts, Connecticut, North and South Carolina and Georgia -- had early colonial charters granting them title. The remaining states feared the land rich states would dominate the new nation,  economically and politically.
  • The goal was “Equal Footing” for all the colonies as well as raising revenue for the new national Treasury.

Slide #4 Northwest Ordinance  

  • A compromise was struck, ceding the western lands to the new nation.
  • Called the Northwest Ordinance, the deal was among the first laws enacted by the United States Congress.
  • Delegates agreed that as colonies and future states were admitted to the Union, all claims to western lands would be given up to the federal government for the benefit of all citizens.  

Slide #5 Building a Nation

  • Through this process, the public domain once stretched from the Appalachian Mountains all the way to the Pacific Ocean.
  • This tremendous land expanse, covering 1.8 Billion acres, was referred to by historian Frederick Jackson Turner as….
  • “The richest gift that was ever spread out before civilized man.”

Slide #6 Territories - 12 Acquisitions

  • Starting with the ceding of the western lands by the original 13 colonies, the expansion continued westward over the next 60 years.
  • As the nation grew, newly formed states ceded some lands to the federal government.
  • While other territories came from treaties or purchases from other nations.

Slide #7 The Louisiana Purchase

  • This expansion took a huge leap westward in 1803 with President Thomas Jefferson’s negotiations with Napoleon of France.
  • Through Jefferson’s vision, o ften called America’s “Manifest Destiny,” the United States acquired 500 million acres from France for a total of 15 million dollars, or less than 4 cents an acre.
  • Known as the “Louisiana Purchase,” the land west of the Mississippi River would one day comprise all or part of 13 future states.

Slide #8 Alaska Purchase

  • Treaties with Spain, Great Britain and Mexico stretched the boundaries of the United States all the way to the Pacific Ocean.
  • In an acquisition that was very unpopular at the time, another 375 million acres came to the U.S. ownership by purchase from Russia.
  • For 7.2 million dollars, or less than 2 cents an acre, Alaska was added, in a deal derided as “Seward’s Folly” after Secretary of State William Seward convinced President Andrew Johnson to make the deal.
  • So, over a 60-year period - one single lifetime - this country acquired 1.8 billion acres of public lands - truly one of the most rapid, peaceful consolidations of land ever accomplished by mankind.

60 Years of the BLM - History video, part 1: broadband, dial-up