UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20240
http://www.blm.gov
April 3, 2012
 
In Reply Refer To:
1734 (200) P
 
EMS TRANSMISSION 04/06/2012
Information Bulletin No. 2012-058
 
To:                   All Washington Office and Field Office Officials
 
From:               Director
 
Subject:           The Bureau of Land Management’s Landscape Approach for Managing the Public Lands
 
Management of public lands has never been more challenging. Many offices are conducting large-scale resource assessments, planning across watersheds and jurisdictions, and working with partners to address landscape-scale restoration needs. These efforts recognize that landscapes are being affected by complex influences that transcend traditional management boundaries. Effectively addressing this increasingly variable situation will require us to improve our ability to evaluate and respond to land health concerns on multiple scales and across programmatic, organizational, land ownership, and political boundaries. Together, we are trying to understand resource conditions and management opportunities in a broader context and use this information to improve the effectiveness of local management responses. Important efforts to address these challenges are underway throughout the BLM.  
 
The BLM is developing a national program to build upon, connect, and support these ongoing field efforts. The program is called a landscape approach for managing public lands. It consists of a suite of components that, taken together, will provide a consistent, science-based, adaptive management framework for integrating broad-scale and local-scale resource management information. A landscape approach uses a broad ecological assessment to discern ecological values, patterns of environmental change, and management opportunities that may not be evident when managing smaller land areas. We then use this information to inform and plan long-term conservation, restoration, and development efforts. A landscape approach offers the perspective and tools needed to address the unique ecological issues and public land management challenges of the 21st Century. 

Unprecedented, widespread environmental and human influences are shaping ecological conditions across the public lands. Examples of these influences include wildfires, weed and insect infestations, energy development, urban growth, and climate change. Managing public lands for multiple use and sustained yield for present and future generations –our core mission– will depend on our ability to anticipate and respond to these profound ecological challenges.

Successfully integrating a landscape perspective with local on-the-ground management is a crucial, multifaceted, and complex undertaking. For this reason, the landscape approach, as outlined below, represents a starting point that is intended to evolve and reflect the collective thinking of our entire organization.  

The Landscape Approach – Proposed Components and Process
The landscape approach, as initially conceived and proposed, consists of the following five interconnected components. This Information Bulletin focuses on the first two components of the landscape approach, REAs and Ecoregional Direction, which are being actively developed and are prime for your consideration and involvement.
 
1) Rapid Ecoregional Assessments (REAs). In a relatively short time frame, REAs synthesize and assess the best available information about resource conditions and trends within an ecoregion. REAs map areas of high ecological value, gauge their sensitivity and resilience to environmental change, and establish landscape-scale baseline ecological data to gauge the effect and effectiveness of future management actions. 
 

2) Ecoregional Direction. Ecoregional direction will use the results of the REAs, with input from BLM staff, partner agencies, stakeholders, and tribes, to identify potential focal areas on public lands for resource conservation, restoration, and development, including potential energy development zones.  Ecoregional direction will also address opportunities to increase habitat connectivity and resiliency, direct monitoring and research, and enhance cross-jurisdictional coordination.

3) Field Implementation. Field implementation puts the management strategies identified in ecoregional direction into practice on-the-ground. 

4) Monitoring for Adaptive Management. The BLM’s Assessment, Inventory, and Monitoring (AIM) Strategy, distributed last May for internal review, will standardize data collection across the BLM and provide for consistent, high-quality, quantitative data essential for informed decision-making and adaptive management. 
 
5) Science Integration.  The landscape approach more closely links science with resource management.  Science in this context includes synthesizing existing research, assessing and modeling existing information, and identifying new research priorities.
 
Current Status of the Landscape Approach
The REAs are the initial step in the landscape approach and have progressed furthest. The BLM initiated seven REAs in 2010 and three REAs in 2011. Attachment 1 is a map of the 2010 and 2011 starts. Each REA will take approximately 18 months to complete. 
 
Altogether, these 10 assessments cover more than 600 million acres of public and non-public lands. As mentioned above, the results of the REAs will be used in developing ecoregional direction.  REAs also provide a regional ecological context that will inform resource management planning and facilitate cumulative effects analyses at the regional and local levels. Also, because the REAs synthesize the best available ecological information on all lands within an ecoregion, they can benefit all landowners and help foster and support collaborative management efforts. More about REAs and their development are described on the website identified below. 
 
The other landscape approach components are progressing steadily. A Design Team comprised of representatives from the Field, National Operations Center, and Deputy State Director/Division Chiefs is developing a proposal for incorporating, or “stepping-down” the REAs into land use planning and day-to-day management activities. This step-down process is a key aspect of our efforts to more fully integrate broad-scale and local-scale ecological information and program direction.
 
The Design Team will draft a proposed process for using the REAs to develop ecoregional direction, and for using ecoregional direction to guide field implementation and monitoring. The Design Team is working to complete a detailed proposal for this process early this year. The Team will then hold briefings and webinars to gain feedback on the proposed process with BLM staff and key partners and stakeholders. We will also discuss the proposed step-down process with our partners in the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs) and Climate Science Centers (CSCs) being established throughout the West by the Department of the Interior. Development of this process will be coordinated with the implementation of the National Greater Sage-Grouse Land Use Planning Strategy discussed in Instruction Memorandum No. 2012-044. Final guidance on the step-down process is planned to be issued through the BLM’s Directive’s System later this year.
 
Your Role in Developing the Landscape Approach
Your input is essential in developing the step-down process. Employees should visit the sharepoint site, where documents that are under review can be found and comments can be made on the step-down process, as well as other aspects of the landscape approach. The sharepoint site will also post future webinars and program meetings on the proposed step-down process and landscape approach, which employees are encouraged to attend. The members of the Design Team can answer questions about the landscape approach and will gather ideas from employees about how to best use landscape-scale information to complement, integrate with, and guide local management and programs. Their contact information is provided in Attachment 2. 
Developing and putting in place an effective landscape approach is vital to the BLM. It will expand, strengthen, and integrate our best practices and collective efforts to sustain the health and productivity of public lands.
 
Additional information and details about the landscape approach are available on the BLM’s external website at http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/prog/more/climatechange.html. An internal sharepoint site has been established at blm.gov/landscapeshare to review documents and offer ideas and comments on the proposed landscape approach.
 
 
Signed by:                                           Authenticated by:
Robert V. Abbey                                  Robert M. Williams
Director                                               Division of IRM Governance,WO-560
 
 
2 Attachments