Our Heritage, Our Future

General Land Office 1812-2012

Celebrate 200 years of public lands and learn why the General Land Office, created in 1812, is very much relevant today.

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History of the BLM: Yesterday and Today

History of the BLM

There are 1.8 billion acres of land in the United States, over two-thirds of which were transferred from federal ownership to individuals, corporations and states. The remaining 29 percent of the land (657 million acres) is in federal hands and is administered primarily by four federal agencies: the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the National Park Service (NPS) and the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) in the U.S. Department of the Interior, and the Forest Service (FS) in the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Bureau of Land Management was formed during a government reorganization in 1946, combining two former federal agencies -- the General Land Office and the U.S. Grazing Service. Most of the land managed by the BLM is located in 12 western states, including Alaska, although small parcels are scattered throughout the East. Besides protecting and managing the public lands for a variety of uses, the BLM also maintains custody of nearly nine million pages of historic land documents. These documents include copies of homestead and sales patents, survey plats and survey field notes.

History of the Bureau of Land Management: 

The BLM Today

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) might best be described as a small agency with a big mission: To sustain the health, productivity, and diversity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.

Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the BLM has about 10,000 employees, most of whom are in the 12 western states. The 245 million surface acres managed by the BLM were once called "the land nobody wanted" because 19th-century Western settlers -- the homesteaders -- had passed it by. That is no longer true.

The BLM in California

The California State Office is located in Sacramento and employs about 900 people in the 15 field office locations throughout the state. BLM California manages about 15.2 million acres of public lands, nearly 15% of the state's land area. The Bureau also administers over 47 million acres of subsurface mineral estate underlying federal surface land, 2.5 million acres underlying privately owned land, 592,000 acres of Native American tribal land where BLM has trust responsibility for mineral operations. BLM California also manages 1.6 million acres in northeastern Nevada for cattle grazing, wild horses, recreation and wildlife habitat.

People continue to flock to the "Golden State," growing at a rate equal to the other 11 western states combined. This population growth presents special challenges for the Bureau in California.

The lands managed by BLM are located within 50 miles of most major urban areas and encompass many ecosystems. Mountain ranges, chaparral lands, sand dunes, sagebrush plains, high desert, rushing mountain rivers, statuesque redwood trees, riparian oak forests, wetlands and the rugged Pacific coastline offer exceptional recreational endeavors, renewable energy sources, oil and natural gas, cattle grazing and wildlife habitat for more than 800 species of plants and animals.

A "multiple-use" agency, BLM actively involves local groups through partnerships to create mutually beneficial projects and programs for the use, enhancement and protection of natural resources. Partnerships greatly enhance the planning and management efforts of the Bureau and improve service for the state's millions of public land users.

Every acre of public land in California serves people in multiple ways, from providing mineral materials to build our urban infrastructure, to energy resources to power our modern society, to conservation to enhance wildlife habitat, to recreation to lift our spirits.