The Foundation of Land Health and Productivity
The health and productivity of BLM-managed public lands hinge on the foundation of healthy and sustainable forest and vegetation resources. This responsibility rests on the Division of Forest, Range, and Vegetation Resources (HQ-220). The goal of the division is to maintain healthy and productive rangelands, forests, and woodlands. Healthy public lands provide for public land grazing, timber and other forest products, and native plant materials; habitat for wildlife, threatened and endangered species, and wild horses and burros; and intrinsic values, such as quiet pristine places to connect with nature. The division develops partnerships to manage threats from noxious weeds, invasive species, disease, and catastrophic wildfire; ensure effective rehabilitation and restoration following wildfire; and adapt and respond to climate change. HQ-220 accomplishes its role through the following programs.
The BLM is responsible for the stewardship of 58 million acres of forest and woodlands in accordance with the Federal Land Policy and Management Act and the Oregon and California Revested Lands Act of 1937. BLM forest management uses various silvicultural treatments to enhance forest resilience to threats such as high-severity wildfire, insect epidemics, and drought-induced mortality. On average, the program plants more than 1 million trees per year to restore forest cover, which also contributes to carbon sequestration. In addition, the program sustainably manages more than 25,000 personal use permits annually for products such as fuelwood, Christmas trees, fence posts, and edibles such as mushrooms and pinyon nuts.
Rangeland Management Program
The rangeland management program supports grazing administration; inventorying, controlling, and managing noxious weeds and invasive species; improving rangelands through livestock grazing management, vegetation restoration treatments, and soil resource management activities.
The BLM currently manages livestock grazing on 155 million of the 245 million acres of public land. The BLM administers nearly 18,000 permits and leases held by ranchers who graze their livestock, mostly cattle and sheep, at least part of the year, on more than 21,000 allotments under BLM management. With an average of 12 million animal unit months across permits and leases, the BLM collects $12-18 million per year in grazing fees. The program also administers reindeer grazing permits in Alaska on 15 designated traditional grazing ranges.
Invasive Species Program
About 79 million acres of BLM-managed public lands are infested with noxious and invasive weeds. The BLM works with state, federal, and local partners to reduce the spread of invasive species, with an emphasis on early detection of and rapid response to new invasions in order to reduce the need for larger, more expensive treatments later on. To promote ecosystem health, this program employs an integrated approach, including herbicides, biological controls, and mechanical treatments, to suppress the rapid expansion of weeds across public lands.
To ensure the health and productivity of public rangelands and to achieve desired conditions on the public lands, the BLM uses rangeland health standards and guidelines (43 CFR 4180). The BLM developed these standards and guidelines in the 1990s with input from citizen-based Resource Advisory Councils across the West. The process for monitoring, assessing, and evaluating rangeland health is consistent bureauwide, but standards may differ across states.
Plant Conservation and Restoration Program (PCRP)
This program increases the diversity and quantity of commercially available native seed for restoring and supporting resilient ecosystems through seed collection, research, procurement, storage, and restoration tools to ensure functioning native plant communities (habitat) for plants, wildlife, and pollinators. The National Seed Strategy is implemented through collaboration with other federal, tribal, and nonfederal partners in the Plant Conservation Alliance. Seeds of Success has made more than 26,000 native seed collections from 43 states. The PCRP has developed a contract for 71 forbs and 40 grasses from 35 seed transfer zones to provide a risk-free incentive to growers of native seed. The program works with 18 prisons in 8 western states growing about 2 million sagebrush seedlings for restoring sage-grouse habitat on public lands. Additionally, the PCRP works to conserve more than 1,700 rare plant species, 400 of which are found only on BLM-managed lands.
Emergency Stabilization and Burned Area Rehabilitation Program
This program is responsible for the planning and implementation of post-wildfire treatments to minimize threats to life and property, restore ecological function, combat invasive plant species, and create resilient landscape conditions. The program is comprised of two separate programs: emergency stabilization (ES) and burned area rehabilitation (BAR). Common treatments under the ES program include area closures, weed treatments, seeding, erosion control, storm patrol, and hazard tree removal. These programs seek to maintain hydrologic function, soil and site stability, and biotic integrity and can include seeding and shrub planting, followup herbicide treatments, and fence repair and other facilities replacement. ES and BAR treatments are implemented on nearly 300 projects annually, totaling an average of 1.6 million acres. Effectiveness monitoring is required on all treatments.
The division works closely with federal agencies, states, tribes, universities, nongovernmental organizations, other BLM programs, and other stakeholders to leverage resources and maximize benefits. Key partners include, but are not limited to:
- U.S. Department of Agriculture
- National and state Cattlemen’s Associations
- Federal Lands Advisory Group
- Public Lands Council
- Intermountain West Joint Venture
- Society for Range Management
- Society for Ecological Restoration
- Plant Conservation Alliance