Principles and Practices of Integrating Science into Land Management

IM 2017-030
Instruction Memorandum




January 4, 2017

In Reply Refer To:

1106 (100) P



Instruction Memorandum No. 2017-030

Expires:  09/30/2020


To:                  All Washington Office and Field Office Officials           

Attn:  Science Coordinators; State Office Program Leads; Planning and Environmental Coordinators

From:               Acting Deputy Director

Subject:            Principles and Practices of Integrating Science into Land Management

Program Areas: All Program Areas

Purpose:  This Instruction Memorandum (IM) provides a systematic and consistent framework for considering science and documenting its use in land management decisions.  The attached “Principles and Practices: Guidelines” and supporting materials provide a structured approach for integrating science into work processes[1] at all levels.  This guidance updates and builds on the BLM’s 2015 “Advancing Science Strategy” and will improve transparency in how science is applied, increase confidence in decision outcomes, and enhance stakeholder support.

Policy/Action:  The BLM is committed to science-based decision making and recognizes that credible scientific information is essential for sustainably managing the nation’s public lands.  BLM decision makers and staff are encouraged to seek out available science and analytical tools and to apply the guidance found in the attached “Principles and Practices: Guidelines,” “Principles and Practices: Desk Guide,” and “Principles and Practices: Case Studies.”  This guidance is intentionally flexible and adaptable, given the complex range and scope of BLM land management decisions.  Managers should implement these guidelines at a variety of scales, from site-specific to landscape level, as appropriate.

The attached “Principles and Practices: Desk Guide” is a quick reference for the full guidelines.  Six installments of “Principles and Practices: Case Studies” are also attached and illustrate how staff have effectively used the “Principles and Practices: Guidelines” in their projects and at a landscape level, across a range of disciplines, and in a variety of geographic locations.   

The National Science Committee will continue to promote the integration of science into land management decisions and to enhance employee access to science support tools.  Through the forthcoming Science in Practice Portal on the BLM national website, BLM employees will gain easier access to new science, analytical tools, and synthesized science, science partnerships, training opportunities, and the BLM Digital Library.

Timeframe:  This IM is effective upon publishing.  Periodic reviews may be conducted (annually or biennially) to identify opportunities for improvements and adjustments to the “Advancing Science Strategy” and “Principles and Practices: Guidelines.”  Improvements and adjustments will consider feedback from all levels of the organization, including field level practitioners.

Budget Impact:  There may be a minor budget impact associated with the BLM’s increased focus on pursuing science and integrating it into the Bureau’s decision making process; that is, costs associated with increasing the BLM’s science capacity and science proficiency, and funding for focused applied research to strengthen certain decisions.  Funding to enhance employee access to science and to promote the application of science will provide long-term benefits to the Bureau.    

Background:  The Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 requires that, in the development and revision of land use plans and in the management of the public lands, the BLM use a systematic interdisciplinary approach to achieve integrated consideration of physical, biological, economic, and other sciences.  The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) mandates that high-quality environmental information be made available to public officials and citizens before decisions are made and before actions are taken.  The NEPA also requires that agencies ensure the accuracy and scientific integrity of its analysis.

The complexity, and visibility, of carrying out the BLM’s mission is increasing in a world where change is rapid and communication is instant.  The Bureau faces challenging choices in managing the land to provide benefits that will endure for generations to come.  The intricacy of natural and cultural systems, combined with public expectations makes it essential for the BLM to continue to use applied science in decision making and evaluating the effectiveness of outcomes.

As recognized in the “Principles and Practices: Guidelines,” science is one of several factors on which BLM managers base decisions.  It builds on the BLM’s long history of science-based land management and will help the BLM meet the two basic goals outlined in the Bureau’s 2015 “Advancing Science Strategy:”

  1. to ensure effective and consistent science integration into the BLM’s work processes; and
  2. to ensure that relevant and timely scientific information is accessible to BLM staff and managers.

The “Advancing Science Strategy” also includes five key principles and practices for managers and staff to focus on to integrate science successfully into public land management decisions and associated work processes.  These are:

  1. use high- quality information relevant to the problem or decision being addressed, relying on peer-reviewed literature when it exists;
  2. recognize the dynamic and interrelated nature of socioecological systems within which the BLM operates;
  3. acknowledge, describe, and document assumptions and uncertainties;
  4. use quantitative data when it exists [and applicable qualitative data], in combination with internal and external professional scientific expertise; and
  5. use transparent and collaborative methods that consider diverse perspectives.

Pages of Manual/Handbook Sections Affected:  None.  These guidelines may be incorporated into planning and NEPA or program-specific manuals in the future under separate guidance. This IM updates the “Advancing Science Strategy.”

Instruction Memorandums Affected:  None.

Coordination:  This IM has been reviewed by the Office of the Solicitor.  It has been coordinated through the National Science Committee, State Science Coordinators, and the Core Science Forum.  It has also been coordinated with the Deputy State Directors and Divisions Chiefs for Resources and Minerals, and the Field Committee.

Contact:  Jon Raby, National Science Committee Chair (Associate State Director, Montana/Dakotas)


Signed by:                                                 Authenticated by:

Jenna Whitlock                                         Robert M. Williams                 

Acting Deputy Director                            Division of IT Policy and Planning,WO-870


3 Attachments

1.      “Principles and Practices: Guidelines” - a structured and descriptive framework for implementing the principles and practices of integrating science into land management, including links to supporting documents (8 pp)

2.      “Principles and Practices: Desk Guide” - a quick reference tool for implementing the “Principles and Practices: Guidelines” (2 pp)

3.      “Principles and Practices: Case Studies” (6 separate documents) - examples of how the BLM has applied the “Principles and Practices: Guidelines” in real-life situations (24 pp)


[1]  Traditional BLM work processes include performing National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis and planning, authorizing use, assessing conditions and status, monitoring, managing compliance, and implementing BLM actions.