Recreation Planning Begins and Ends with the Community

Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands are experiencing newfound levels of demand for outdoor recreation opportunities. Through the practice of proactive community planning and investment in local partnerships, the BLM is developing new opportunities that are supporting long-term economic development, community health, and ecological integrity for rural communities. 

The Society of Outdoor Recreation Professionals (SORP) hosted its bi-annual National Outdoor Recreation Conference (NORC) the week of May 6 in Lake Tahoe. The conference has a national draw of industry leaders from private sector infrastructure contractors and consultants, non-profits, universities, outdoor gear brands, federal and state agencies. This was the first conference since 2022, and it boasted more than 600 attendees.

Jenny Alexander, Outdoor Recreation Planner from the Billings Field Office, and Whit Patterson, Recreation Program Lead in the Montana/Dakotas State Office, presented case studies on “Solutions for Communities with Emerging Outdoor Recreation Economies.” The two BLM staff were joined by BLM partner Chris Orr from International Mountain Bicycling Association and consultant Bruce Meighen of Logan Simpson.

Photo: Four people in a row smiling at the camera.
The BLM and partners presented case studies of Billings Field Office recreation projects at the National Outdoor Recreation Conference in Lake Tahoe in May. Panel members included Chris Orr from the International Mountain Bicycling Association; consultant Bruce Meighen of Logan Simpson; Whit Patterson, Recreation Program Lead for BLM Montana/Dakotas; and Jenny Alexander, Outdoor Recreation Planner for the BLM Billings Field Office. BLM photo

Case studies detailed projects based on BLM lands in Utah, California, Colorado and Montana. Common themes across all studies were economic analysis (impact vs. value), utilization of Assistant Agreements, proactive scoping and rooted relationships built on time spent listening to members in the community.

“Visitation is up 38 percent on BLM lands over the past decade. We don’t have the staff or resources to keep up with those kinds of trends. We have been working outside the box to build partnerships with local enthusiasts and users. We hope to manage and maintain recreational opportunities for the future by expanding our successes through continued and new partnerships,” stated Alexander.

NORC was an opportunity to continue forward by learning about new potential partners/organizations, and resources for future community planning, including recreational use on BLM lands.

Whit Patterson, Recreation Program Lead, Montana/Dakotas State Office

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