U.S. Department of the Interior

Bureau of Land Management


Part 6

PUBLIC HEALTH, SAFETY, AND RESOURCE PROTECTION

In addition to preserving and protecting natural and cultural resources, BLM's stewardship responsibilities extend to protecting public health, safety, and property. The Bureau is responsible for protecting public lands from trespass dumping of household and hazardous wastes, theft and destruction of Federal property, misuse of resources, and wildland fires. Wildland fire activity on BLM lands was below normal for the second year in a row. This was a welcome relief, since 1996 was one of the worst fire seasons on record.

Table 6-1 provides summary numbers of wildland fires and acres burned on BLM lands and other lands protected by BLM through cooperative agreements with local fire protection agencies.

El Niņo had an unusual impact on the 1998 fire season. A mild winter followed by a very wet spring created conditions for grasses to grow 300 percent above normal in the Great Basin states. Ordinarily, high fuel production and fuel loading would usher in an active fire season. However, spring rains delayed the start of most BLM wildland fire suppression operations, as fuels did not begin to cure until late June in much of the West. Overall, fire activity was below normal on BLM lands.

Table 6-2 identifies capital improvements on public lands. Roads, trails, recreation sites, and other improvements give the public access to public lands and provide opportunities for their use and enjoyment. In general, the data reflect capital investments made years ago to meet the ever-growing demands of customers. In the last four years, there have been few new capital improvement projects because available resources were needed to maintain existing facilities. In 1998, BLM updated its inventory of recreation sites, re-inventoried other facilities, and conducted condition surveys to gather data for the Five-Year Deferred Maintenance Plan.

Table 6-3 summarizes releases of hazardous substances and other pollutants and contaminants discovered on public lands. The Nation's public lands provide opportunities for a variety of commercial uses, and sometimes illegal activities as well. Historically, approximately 60 percent of all hazardous substance releases on public lands have resulted from commercial operations, primarily at landfills, mines, mill sites, airstrips, and oil and gas sites. The other 40 percent have been caused by illegal activities, such as midnight dumping of agricultural and industrial wastes, wire burning, and illicit drug production. Approximately half of the hazardous substance releases found in 1998 were at inactive mines. Although drug labs make up a small percentage of total discoveries, they are a growing problem on public lands. Once concentrated mainly in California and Oregon, drug labs are now found in other Western States as well. Methamphetamine labs are particularly dangerous because the residue chemicals are extremely explosive.

 6-1 Fires on or Threatening BLM Lands  PDF
 6-2 Capital Improvements on Public Lands  PDF
 6-3 Releases of Hazardous Substances on Public Lands  PDF

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