World War II and Its Connection to the Origin of the BLM

By Robert King

After World War II ended in 1945, the nation was left with the task of changing to a peacetime economy.  The same was true for the federal government, which had created or enlarged agencies for wartime needs.  One response to this was passage of the Reorganization Act of 1945 (59 Stat. 613).  The act authorized the President to reexamine the organization and efficiency of all federal agencies to “facilitate orderly transition from war to peace” and to accomplish efficiency, cost-savings, and the consolidation of functions where appropriate. 

A photograph of a soldier near the American flag at the crest of Mount Suribachi.
A view from the crest of Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima, after U.S. Marines fought their way up the slope, circa February 1945.  (United States Archives)
Under this act, President Harry S. Truman prepared “Reorganization Plan No. 3 of 1946,” introducing it to the Congress on May 16, 1946.  Section 403 in part IV of the President’s plan proposed the creation of a new federal agency, the Bureau of Land Management, from a merger of the General Land Office and the Grazing Service.  Some of the functions of the two agencies already overlapped, and the Grazing Service had run into some disfavor with western senators for advocating higher grazing fees.  Under section 6 of the Reorganization Act, the President’s plan would take effect unless both houses of Congress passed a resolution stating that they did not concur with the plan within 60 days.  The House of Representatives passed a resolution of nonconcurrence, but the Senate did not.  Hence, the President’s plan came into effect on July 16, 1946, 60 days after its presentation to Congress, and the BLM was thus “created” on that date.  The BLM therefore officially began as an agency created in the wake of World War II as the nation transitioned to peace and prosperity.

Robert King has been the state archaeologist for the BLM in Alaska since 1986.