Last updated:

MARCH 9, 2005

Thank you for the inviting me to testify on the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) fiscal year (FY) 2006 Budget request. My testimony today will focus on the BLM’s budget proposal except as it relates to our Energy and Minerals programs. Congressman Gibbons’ Subcommittee on Energy and Minerals will review our budget proposal on those programs. Accompanying me today is Mike Ferguson, the BLM’s Budget Officer.

The BLM manages over 261 million acres of federal land, primarily in the western United States, and over 700 million acres of Federally-owned subsurface mineral estate. Our mandate from the Congress is to manage the public lands for multiple uses and to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.

The range of activities on the public lands managed by the BLM is as diverse as the land itself. Commercial uses such as oil and gas production, mineral development, livestock grazing, and timber harvest coexist with various other uses, such as recreation, and cultural and historic preservation. Congress also has designated certain public lands to be managed for particular uses, such as wilderness and National Conservation Areas.

Most of our public lands are managed under a full multiple-use concept. Responsible stewardship of the public lands means the BLM must balance multiple and potentially conflicting uses, including increased demands for recreation, grazing, and energy production. The BLM’s mission is further complicated by the need to ensure that the public rangelands, forests, and woodlands are healthy, functioning ecosystems that provide habitat for species ranging from elk to sage-grouse. Additionally, the BLM provides important public services such as wildfire management and enforcement of Federal laws on the public lands. This is a tall order, but one that the BLM continually strives to meet with the help of its many partners.

The challenges and opportunities of this complex mission are made greater by the burgeoning populations in many parts of the West. The increasing population and changing demographics of the West are also changing the ways in which Americans seek to use the public lands. In efforts to build consensus as to how the public lands should be used, we have cultivated a community-based, citizen-centered approach to decision-making. Recent internal and regulatory changes formally recognize the participation of state, local, and Tribal governments in cooperative planning for the use of the public lands. This change affirms that the lands administered by the BLM belong to the public and are managed in partnership with the public to serve public needs and interests.

Restoring long-term health to public forests and rangelands marked by drought, wildland fire, invasive species, development of adjacent private lands, and degradation as a result of increased use, is another challenge facing the BLM. Recent initiatives developed in concert with our partners, such as Community Wildfire Protection Plans, Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategies, efforts to reduce hazardous fuels under the President’s Healthy Forest Initiative and the Healthy Forests Restoration Act, the Sage-Grouse Habitat Conservation Strategy, and hundreds of other partnerships the BLM uses to engage the public, are essential to the BLM’s ability to fulfill its mission and are fundamental to the BLM’s FY 2006 Budget request.

The President’s FY 2006 Budget request for the BLM incorporates the following themes which Secretary of the Interior Norton has articulated:

Within these themes the BLM budget request identifies the following four emphasis areas that establish the BLM’s priorities for FY 2006:

These themes recognize the contribution of the BLM to the sustainability of the Nation’s energy supply and the importance of managing the public lands in a manner that supports healthy environments. They also ensure that the BLM continues to play a significant role in cooperating with local communities and citizens to meet the challenges described above, and most importantly, enhancing the quality of life for all citizens through a balanced stewardship of the public lands.

FY 2006 BLM Budget Overview
The BLM’s FY 2006 Budget request is $1.75 billion for the BLM’s major appropriations, including the Management of Lands and Resources, Oregon and California Grant Lands (O&C), Construction, Land Acquisition, Miscellaneous Trust Funds, and the Department of the Interior’s Wildland Fire Management Appropriation. Excluding a one-time supplemental appropriation of $98.6 million for fire suppression in 2005, this represents a $27.1 million increase over the 2005 enacted levels. When you include receipt-based accounts, the BLM’s total appropriation is $2.23 billion.

In FY 2006, the BLM will collect an estimated total of $1.35 billion in revenue. BLM’s onshore mineral leasing activities also contribute directly to the generation of another $3.7 billion in receipts (bonuses, rents, and royalties collected by the Minerals Management Service) for a total of approximately $5 billion. In FY 2005, the BLM estimates it will collect $5 billion. These levels are steadily increasing from amounts collected in prior years. The increase is attributable to receipts from land sales under the Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act, higher hardrock mining claim filings, increased timber harvests, helium sales, and expected gains from cost recovery efforts.

Improved Dispersed Recreational Opportunities – Recreational use of the public lands continues to grow dramatically. Off highway vehicle (OHV) use, in particular, is an increasingly popular activity on the public lands. In order to more effectively provide for continued public use and access to the public lands, the BLM is requesting an increase of $3.7 million to develop and implement travel management plans in areas of high recreation use. This will more effectively provide for OHV use in a manner that coexists with other needs and uses of the public lands. The requested increase in funding will be used to initiate road and trail inventories, hold meetings with user groups, and complete interdisciplinary route analyses.

To complement this request, the BLM is also requesting an increase of $2.2 million in the Challenge Cost Share (CCS) program specifically for conservation and resource damage mitigation work. Working with partners, the BLM will use the requested increase for re-routing or removing existing roads and trails; signing and mapping to direct and educate the public; repairing damaged resources through re-vegetating sage-grouse habitat; and conducting archaeological recovery or restoration actions.

By improving trail and OHV management, the BLM will minimize impacts to wildlife habitat, reduce the introduction and spread of invasive weeds, and prevent damage to cultural resources resulting from the expansion of roads and trails on public lands. Moving towards a rational system of a designated network of roads and trails through travel management planning will protect recreational access to the public lands. In the long run, these plans will prevent unnecessary closures or restrictions due to preventable resource damage or user conflicts.

Managing Rangeland and Forests to Achieve Healthy and Productive Watersheds – Among the BLM’s top priorities in FY 2006 are achieving healthy forests and rangelands; improving sagebrush habitat for the sage-grouse; and controlling invasive weeds. In large part, these efforts will be completed cooperatively through partnerships with state, local and tribal governments, businesses, and local organizations. By taking these actions, the BLM hopes to prevent litigation, ensure thriving and dynamic ecosystems, improve species’ habitat, and allow for the continued multiple use of the public lands. The initiatives for which the BLM is requesting funding increases include:

Protecting and Preserving Heritage and Cultural Resources – The BLM faces a number of immediate management challenges in response to increased visitation and the associated physical impacts to heritage and cultural resources on the public lands. These challenges include protecting lives, property, and resources from illegal activities in areas that have important heritage and cultural values.

Law Enforcement – In FY 2006, the BLM is requesting an additional $1.0 million to hire new law enforcement officers and to fund agreements with State and local agencies to protect resources, public land visitors, and BLM employees. Of the requested increase, $450,000 will be directed to the Four Corners area of Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico, to improve the BLM's on-the-ground ranger presence, and to investigate and prosecute traffickers of cultural and historical resources. Funds will be directed, in part, to units of the National Landscape Conservation System to protect archeological, historical, paleontological, and biological resources; direct off-highway vehicles to designated roads and trails; and restore, conserve, and interpret the outstanding values of these special Congressionally-designated areas.

Of the requested increase, $450,000 will be used to hire law enforcement officers at borderland locations to protect resources and property impacted as a result of illegal immigration and increases in drug smuggling. Finally, $100,000 of the requested increase in funding will be used to provide for law enforcement agreements with state and local agencies in an effort to improve the enforcement of state laws that are needed to provide for greater visitor safety in areas that are impacted by illegal drug and border activities.

Program Reductions – As part of the President’s effort to reduce the budget deficit by one-half over the next five years, the BLM’s FY 2006 Budget request makes difficult choices that reduce funding, and in some cases terminates programs that either duplicate activities of other agencies or programs, or require a lower level of funding because key programmatic goals have been reached. In contributing to this effort, the BLM’s FY 2006 Budget request proposes a number of programmatic reductions and two legislative proposals, one eliminating the BLM’s Range Improvement Fund and the other amending the Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act (SNPLMA).

Mr. Chairman, thank you again for the opportunity to discuss the BLM’s FY 2006 Budget request. We believe that the budget proposal discussed above positions the BLM to tackle the difficult challenges that lie ahead in cooperation with our many partners. We look forward to working with your Subcommittee on these and other issues in fiscal years 2005 and 2006.