BLM Idaho History

As with all BLM states and offices, prior to 1946, the General Land Office and the Grazing Service were responsible for activities on the public domain lands in Idaho.  Here is a quick overview of the BLM’s roots in Idaho.

General Land Office

The General Land Office opened the first Land Office in Idaho at Boise in 1868.  It operated until 1927, when the functions were consolidated with the Blackfoot Land Office.  The Blackfoot Land Office was established in 1886.  The Coeur d'Alene Land Office was established for northern Idaho in 1885.  In 1948, the Blackfoot and the Coeur d'Alene Land Offices were closed, moved, merged and reopened as the Boise Land Office.  Other Land Offices in Idaho were operated for shorter periods in Hailey (1883 - 1924), Lewiston (1871 - 1924), Oneida (1876) and Oxford (1879 - 1883).

Grazing Service

The Grazing Service created five Grazing Districts in Idaho in the mid-1930s.  Each Grazing District was headed by a District Grazier with clerical support and a Grazing Advisory Board made up of local ranchers. These Grazing Districts were:

  • District No. 1, the Owyhee District, with office in Boise
  • District No. 2, the Twin Falls District, with office in Burley
  • District No. 3, the Lost River District, with office in Pocatello, later moved to Idaho Falls
  • District No. 4, the Lemhi District, with office in Salmon
  • District No. 5, the Wood River District, with office in Shoshone

Each of these Idaho District Graziers reported to a Grazing Service Regional Director in the Grazing Service Regional 5 Office in Boise.  This office was moved to Pocatello, Idaho, in 1939 and then back to Boise in 1942.

Bureau of Land Management

The five Grazing Service District Offices became the BLM’s Boise, Burley, Idaho Falls, Salmon and Shoshone District Offices in 1946.  From 1946 to 1954, each of these BLM District Offices reported to the BLM’s new Regional Office for Region I located in Portland, Oregon.  In 1954, the BLM replaced its Regional Office organization with an Area Office - State Office organization.  A BLM State Office was established in Boise with a State Supervisor who supervised the Idaho District Offices.  The Supervisor reported to an Area Administrator for BLM’s Area II Office headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah.

In 1961, the BLM’s Area Office organization was eliminated and the State Supervisor position was retitled State Director, who reported directly to the Director of the BLM in Washington, D.C.  In 1955, Burley District Manager William L. Mathews initiated the concept of subdividing the Burley District into three Areas, later called Resource Areas (now known as Field Offices), each managed by an Area Manager reporting to the District Manager.  In 1957, four Area Offices were also established in the Boise District.  By 1962, Area Offices were established in the Shoshone, Idaho Falls and Salmon Districts.  Today’s structure consists of four Districts; Boise, Coeur d’Alene, Twin Falls and Idaho Falls, consisting of twelve Field Offices.

Early cadastral surveyors in Idaho. Photo courtesy Idaho Historical Society.

View historical land management photos on @BLMIdaho Flickr.