Welcome! This website is produced and maintained by the Education, Interpretation, and Partnerships Division of the Bureau of Land Management (commonly called BLM). It presents learning opportunities associated with the 245 million acres of public lands that BLM manages for all Americans. We have gathered information for students, teachers, and learners of all ages to use both in the classroom, in informal outdoor settings, or in "virtual" classrooms. We have included resources from many of our field offices located mostly in the Western United States. Explore this site and send us your comments, questions, and suggestions for improvement.
About the Bureau of Land Management
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), an agency of the U.S. Department of the Interior, manages 245 million acres of public lands—more than any other Federal agency. These lands are located primarily in 12 Western States, including Alaska. BLM also manages the oil, gas, and minerals on an additional 700 million acres of subsurface estate throughout the nation.
The public lands under BLM management represent diverse ecosystems and are rich in natural and cultural resources, which belong to all Americans. These open spaces once were valued primarily for their commercial value—such as minerals, oil and gas, timber, or livestock forage. Today, they are increasingly recognized for their open spaces, recreation opportunities, native wildlife and plants, and historical and archaeological resources. The challenge for land managers at BLM today is to accommodate competing interests while sustaining the health of the land.
BLM was created in 1946 with the merger of the Grazing Service and the General Land Office. Congress created the General Land Office in the Department of Commerce in 1812 to oversee land surveys and title transfers. The Taylor Grazing Act of 1934 established the U.S. Grazing Service to manage the public rangelands.
When BLM was created, there were over 2,000 unrelated and often conflicting laws for managing the public lands. In 1976, Congress passed the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA), providing the agency with its first unified legislative mandate. With FLPMA, Congress recognized the value of the public lands and declared they would be managed for "multiple use," to be used "in the combination that will best meet the present and future needs of the American people."
The public lands today are managed for a variety of uses. BLM-managed lands typically generate some $5 billion each year in revenues from mineral leasing, timber sales, grazing fees, and recreation, and other use fees. But public land values are not measured merely in terms of dollars.
For example, the public lands contain priceless archaeological and historic sites that represent the tangible remains of at least 13,000 years of human habitation of the land. Although only a small percentage of the public lands have been surveyed, more than 4,400 BLM properties are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, in 408 separate listings. The BLM has responsibility for 19 National Historic Landmarks and 5 World Heritage Sites. In addition, many of the most famous fossils ever discovered come from the public lands. Evidence of past life on earth, many of these national treasures are now in America's museums, including such well-known creatures as Tyrannosaurus, Allosaurus, and Apatosaurus.
Much of the land under BLM management is rangeland, generally characterized by thin soils and low annual precipitation. Past unregulated livestock grazing and 19th-century land-use practices have taken a toll on rangeland health. BLM is working with States, Tribes, local governments, and a host of private organizations and community groups to restore and maintain the health of these lands.
Rights-of-way are another important use of public lands. BLM conducts thousands of reviews each year to consider proposals for mining, filming, grazing, rights-of-way, the use of off-road vehicles, and other uses. The agency may attach special conditions in approving rights-of-way applications that will improve landscape health. These conditions are determined primarily through an environmental review process called for by the National Environmental Policy Act.
The Bureau of Land Management has established the National Landscape Conservation System (NLCS) to help protect some of the nation's most remarkable and rugged landscapes. The system includes the agency's National Monuments, National Conservation Areas, Wilderness Areas, Wilderness Study Areas, Wild and Scenic Rivers, and National Scenic and Historic Trails as well as other areas designated for important scientific and ecological characteristics. BLM works collaboratively with local communities, States, and other partners on management of these special areas.
One of BLM's objectives is to seek input from all those who use and value the public lands as the agency determines how the public lands should be managed. An important component of this cooperative approach is the 24 Resource Advisory Councils located throughout the West, which provide citizen recommendations about managing public land resources. Originally established in 1995 to help develop standards for healthy rangelands, these councils are now turning their attention to a variety of other land use issues.
BLM also plays an important role in managing the nation's critical resources, including 143,000 miles of riparian-lined streams and 13 million acres of wetlands. Riparian areas are the “green zones” or transition areas between where vegetation is permanently saturated (wetlands) and upland areas. These lands are adjacent to creeks, streams, lakes, and rivers. Although riparian areas and wetlands represent only about 9 percent of the public lands, they provide important habitat for wildlife and fish, they are critical to water quality and ranching, and they provide valuable recreation experiences for millions of Americans. For these and many other reasons, BLM places a high priority on the ecological health of riparian areas and they receive special management attention.
The spread of invasive and noxious weeds presents a major challenge to BLM land managers. Weeds are spreading at an estimated rate of about 4,300 acres per day on public lands alone. Invasions of yellow starthistle, leafy spurge, spotted knapweed, and dozens of other weed species are causing severe and often permanent land degradation in thousands of watersheds. A variety of control and management methods can be effective, but early detection, rapid response, and working with local communities to prevent weed spread and control new infestations are the most cost-effective solutions.
BLM plays a vital role in managing wild horses and burros, which, for many, are symbols of the West. Some 33,000 wild horses and burros roam public lands; more than 30,000 “excess” animals are fed and cared for at short- and long-term holding facilities. The agency monitors rangeland health and wild horse herds to help determine the number of animals the land can sustain. In addition to removing wild horses and burros and placing them in holding facilities, BLM keeps populations in check through fertility control and by offering excess animals for adoption to qualified people.
An increasingly important BLM responsibility is fire management. The National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, ID, plays a key role in protecting all public lands. BLM and a number of other agencies have pooled resources to respond to fire emergencies. The Center's fire management policies recognize the beneficial role fire plays in the ecosystem.
BLM employs about 10,000 paid professionals and enlists the support of some 25,000 volunteers.
Offices include a national office in Washington, D.C., and more than 150 state and field offices. Although most of the land under BLM management is in the West, the agency manages scattered parcels of land in the East. In addition, the agency maintains more than 9 million General Land Office records dating back to 1787 and provides land surveying services for other federal agencies.
The Bureau of Land Management's Home Page is: http://www.blm.gov