The BLM’s Air Resource Management Program (Air Program), part of the Bureau’s Soil, Water, and Air (SWA) program, coordinates and supports the BLM’s efforts to manage air resources within its “multiple use” and “sustained yield” mission. This involves carrying out the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA) and ensuring that all activities that the BLM conducts or authorizes comply with the Clean Air Act and other air pollution laws and regulations.
Cattle grazing under the Big Sky in eastern Montana.
Why does the BLM manage air resources?
Across the National System of Public Lands, the BLM develops land use plans (known as resource management plans, or RMPs) and authorizes oil and natural gas development and production, solar and wind energy generation, solid mineral extraction, off-highway vehicle events, and countless other land uses. Through these uses, lands managed by the BLM strengthen economies and communities, increase energy security, create jobs, and provide recreational opportunities. Yet, many BLM-authorized land uses — as well as the BLM’s own activities and wildland fires — have the potential to affect air resources on BLM lands and those nearby.
Particularly in the West, recent growth in population, urbanization, and demand for resources and recreation on BLM-managed lands have contributed to concerns about air resources where few existed in the past. It is increasingly important that the BLM understand regional air quality trends and address potential impacts of proposed land uses in the context of those trends.
The BLM manages air resources to carry out FLPMA’s instructions and to ensure that the uses the BLM initiates or authorizes on the public lands are consistent with the Federal, state, local, and tribal regulatory framework under the Clean Air Act. The BLM uses the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process to analyze the potentially significant environmental impacts of its proposed actions on air resources (and other resources), and to select appropriate measures to mitigate adverse impacts. These steps enable the BLM to continue authorizing diverse land uses on public lands while protecting air resources and preparing for new challenges.
What Are Air Resources?
Air Quality refers to the quality of the atmosphere as determined primarily by the concentration of air pollutants, which under the Clean Air Act are generally grouped into three categories:
Criteria Air Pollutants include six common air pollutants, such as ground-level ozone and particulate matter, that are regulated under national or state Ambient Air Quality Standards
Hazardous Air Pollutants are specific chemical compounds known to cause or suspected of causing adverse health effects
Greenhouse Gases are naturally occurring and manmade gases that trap heat in the atmosphere; EPA has found that six greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, endanger public health and welfare and are considered to be pollutants under the Clean Air Act
Air Quality Related Values are attributes of relatively pristine areas which may be adversely affected by air quality, such as:
- Flora and fauna
- Ecologic, geologic, historic, and cultural characteristics
Climate is the average weather of a specific region over a specific time interval (usually several decades), including weather features such as:
- Temperature and humidity
- Rain, snow and other precipitation
- Sunshine and cloudiness
- Wind patterns
How does the BLM Air Program work?
BLM air resource specialists work in BLM state offices, the BLM National Operations Center, and the BLM Washington Office. They work with BLM national programs such as Decision Support, Planning and NEPA, Fluid and Solid Minerals, Energy, Recreation and Visitor Services, and Fire Planning and Fuels Management to develop policy, guidance, and tools for addressing air resources in the field. BLM air resource specialists also support BLM state, district, and field offices in implementing policy and guidance relevant to air resources. They conduct NEPA analyses of potential impacts on air resources associated with BLM or BLM-authorized uses, and they recommend appropriate best management practices (BMPs) or other measures to mitigate adverse impacts to air resources. BLM air resource specialists coordinate with BLM National Training Center specialists to develop training courses for BLM employees engaged in managing air resources as well.
The BLM Air Program also collaborates with other federal agencies; state, local, and tribal agencies; and stakeholders to address air quality issues. At times, the BLM Air Program participates in federal, state, tribal, and local air quality planning, regulatory, or permitting processes.
The BLM is currently developing a 5-year Air Resource Management Program Strategy. A link to the Strategy will be provided here when it is finalized.