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Release Date: 08/30/12
Contacts: Kyle Sullivan (303)239-3861    

Cowboys, Clerks and Controversy (08-30-12)

From Indian Peoples to cowboys, trappers to miners, law clerks to members of Congress, the West was created by colorful characters that forever changed the shape of our country. Come and learn about some of these folks at the symposium The Nation Possessed: Conflicting Claims on America’s Public Lands, being held at the University of Colorado in Boulder September 12-14th. 
The General Land Office played the crucial role in managing the nation’s public lands and the settlement of the West, a role that still affects the lives of Americans on a daily basis. Do you own the minerals beneath your land? Why is your favorite park or open space public? The answer to these questions and the history of private property in the U.S. have a complicated and often intriguing story behind them.
The Public Lands Foundation, the Center of the American West and the Bureau of Land Management invite you to join the conversation as leaders such as former BLM Directors Mike Dombeck, Jim Caswell and Bob Abbey; former U.S. Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth; Tim Egan, author and writer for the New York Times; Will Roger Peterson, co-founder of Burning Man; and former Colorado Governor Bill Ritter discuss the history of our nation’s public lands while sharing lessons for citizens and future land managers.

In 1812, the United States established the General Land Office to oversee the disposal of the public domain into private ownership. During its existence, the General Land Office transferred more than one billion acres of land to state and private ownership through federal land laws, including homesteading and settlement laws and statehood acts. Despite the huge impact on Indian Peoples, these acts helped spread population westward while empowering lower and middle class families to own land and contribute to the economy, creating the United States we know today.

The General Land Office’s 200th anniversary provides a great opportunity to turn hindsight into foresight. The often controversial history of the American West provides context for the public and land managers to think about how their decisions impact the future. In 1812, few could envision the impacts to Indian Peoples’ culture, homelands and ways of life caused by westward expansion.

From the disposal of public lands to the emphasis on conservation, America’s public lands have evolved to meet many of the public’s needs such as grazing, energy production and recreation. Visionaries like Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir helped create the modern conservation movement. National parks, wildlife refuges and wilderness areas were first created to preserve landscapes essential to our quality of life.  America’s newest conservation system, the Bureau of Land Management’s National Landscape Conservation System, continues this tradition by adding to the 21st century conservation ethic.

Your public lands encompass more than 1/8 of the country, providing a $385 billion dollar economic boost and supporting more than 2 million jobs in 2011. In Colorado, 6.8 million visits to BLM-managed lands in 2011 supported approximately 5,500 jobs while contributing nearly $560 million in economic activity.

For more information please visit 
To register for the symposium, please visit

The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land, the most of any Federal agency. This land, known as the National System of Public Lands, is primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The BLM's mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. In Fiscal Year 2015, the BLM generated $4.1 billion in receipts from activities occurring on public lands.

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Last updated: 08-30-2012