U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIORBUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
|BLM and Its Predecessors|
A Long and Varied History
The 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 War of Independence.
The late 19th century marked a shift in Federal land management priorities with the creation of the first national parks, forests, and wildlife refuges. By withdrawing these lands from settlement, Congress signaled a shift in the policy goals served by the public lands. Instead of using them to promote settlement, Congress recognized that they should be held in public ownership because of their other resource values.
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.
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. When the BLM was initially created, there were over 2,000 unrelated and often conflicting laws for managing the public lands. The BLM had no unified legislative mandate until Congress enacted the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA).
Additional Links on BLM History
Fractured Land Patterns
Video on how U.S. lands were allocated
California History Page
Includes links to 9-part slideshow on 60th anniversary
History of the Rectangular Survey System
From GPO (PLSS 1996)
NPS Version of Hans Stuart Book
30 Years of FLPMA by Joe Ross