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August 13, 2008
In Reply Refer To:
2930 (250) P
Instruction Memorandum No. 2008-179
Expires: 09/30/2009
To:                   All Washington Office and Field Offices
From:               Assistant Director, Renewable Resources and Planning
Subject:           Permitting ofCommercial Services for the Scattering of Cremated Remains (cremains) on the Bureau of Land Management Lands and Waters
Program Area: Recreation and Visitor Services, Cultural, Lands and Realty, and National Landscape System
Purpose:  The purpose of this Instruction Memorandum (IM) is to provide guidance to evaluate requests for Special Recreation and/or Land Use Permits for the commercial disposal of cremated remains (cremains) on the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands and waters.
Policy/Action:  Disposal of cremains on public land by individuals is generally considered to be casual use that does not require a lands or recreation use permit. However, commercial activities providing for the disposal of cremains on the public lands are required to operate under a land use permit or Special Recreation Permit (SRP).
The following guidance will assist the field in evaluating and assessing commercial proposals providing for the disposal of cremains on the public lands and preparing the rationale for decisions to permit, authorize or deny such use. The following considerations and procedures should be used in processing requests from individuals or groups wishing to provide a commercial service for the disposal of cremains on BLM managed lands and waters:
  • The BLM office accepts the preliminary application/proposal from entities desiring to engage in the commercial disposal of cremated remains on the public lands. The office then determines if the proposal constitutes a permanent use of the public lands, for example, the establishment of a memorial garden or cemetery that would require a lands permit, lease or sale; or instead is a temporary use that would require an SRP.
  • The normal SRP application process begins when the BLM office receives the preliminary application/proposal. This process includes a pre-application conference with the proponent to discuss types and level of detail that the applicant should include in the application. The pre-application conference is essential because it gives the BLM an opportunity to direct the requester’s planned activities towards less sensitive areas with fewer concerns/issues, and establishes expectations related to the process and associated costs the proponent may incur for evaluating and processing the application. 
  • After receiving a completed application, the BLM evaluates what is needed to process the application, including the anticipated level of environmental analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the requirements of Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), and tribal consultation requirements. The BLM will notify the requestor if cost recovery is appropriate and provide a cost estimate. The BLM has 30 days to review the application and determine the completeness of the application, the complexity of processing, need for cost recovery, and other requirements. 
  • Applications will be considered on a case-by-case basis according to relevant criteria. Commercial operations involving dispersal of cremains on the public lands may already be prohibited in specific areas consistent with the area’s land use plan. 
  • The BLM will enter into consultation with tribes and evaluate the substantive nature of any claims. 
  • The BLM shall evaluate the environmental effects and will assess implications or conflicts with current and potential land uses. As with all NEPA and NHPA related actions, the BLM will conduct appropriate public involvement and issue scoping activities. 
  • The application process will establish limits as to, among other things, acceptable number of visits or ceremonies per year, length of stay per visit, location and number of sites, size of groups, and methods of dispersal. 
  • Commercial operations involving dispersal of cremains is prohibited in designated wilderness as stipulated under the Wilderness Act restrictions on commercial activities.  
If a permit is issued, at a minimum, it should include the following stipulations: 
  • The prohibition on the placement of permanent or temporary memorials and markers or leaving behind any material objects other than cremains.
  • Avoidance of areas such as, but not limited to, developed parks; campgrounds; other facilities and administrative sites; areas of critical environmental concern; riparian or open water areas; designated wilderness; areas under permit for other land use activities; and cultural resources, including, but not limited to prehistoric or historic archaeological sites; buildings or structures (see BLM Manual 8100, Glossary); Native American burial sites; and traditional cultural use areas or sacred sites. 
  • Specification of times or season of use, number of visits allowed annually and appropriate group size limitations depending on resource considerations. 
  • Recommendations outlined in Leave No Trace practices for groups in the outdoors during the process. 
  • Prohibition on the use of motorized vehicles off designated routes. 
  • Prohibition of commercial operations involved in the dispersal of cremains on cultural resources including, but not limited to prehistoric or historic archaeological sites, buildings or structures (see BLM Manual 8100, Glossary), Native American burial sites, and traditional cultural use areas. 
  • Requiring that all activities must be consistent with applicable state law regarding the treatment of remains. Cremains must be “scattered” and not left in piles, in urns, or buried. 
  • Prohibition on the collection of natural or cultural materials from the site. 
  • Requiring the proponent to provide documentation that the client understands that the permit and associated service in no way implies permanent “protection or designation” of disposal sites from other current or future land uses such as grazing, forestry, vegetation treatments, prescriptive fire, energy development, recreation uses/activities, and other land uses. 
The authorizing officer should use the BLM Recreation Permit and Fee Handbook or the Land Use Authorization Handbook for other appropriate stipulations that may be applied to the permit.
Time Frame: Effective Immediately.
Budget Impact: Minimal to none.
Background: Federal land management agencies generally have not regulated the non-commercial or individual scattering of cremains at the national level. As dispersal of cremains on public lands has become an increasingly popular activity, businesses have been created to provide commercial services that conduct scattering of cremains, memorial services, and support planning and logistics for these occasions. 
A recent Interior Board of Land Appeals decision concerning the denial of a Special Recreation Permit (SRP) to engage in the commercial use of BLM lands in Montana for the purpose of scattering cremated human remains requires the BLM to provide a “reasoned and factual explanation for denying (the) appellants permit application…” This has necessitated a need for national or state-by-state policy that provides guidance to evaluate requests for Special Recreation and/or Land Use Permits for the commercial disposal of cremains on BLM lands and waters.
Manual/Handbook:  This change has no affect on the applicable BLM Recreation Permit Administration Manual M-2930 and Handbook H-2930-1
Coordination: This IM was coordinated with the Office of the National Landscape System, the Division of Cultural, Paleontological Resources and Tribal Coordination and the Division of Lands, Realty, and Cadastral Survey.
Contact: If you have any questions concerning this IM, please contact Bob Ratcliffe, Chief, Division of Recreation and Visitor Services, at 202-452-5040; Anthony Bobo, Jr., Recreation Fee Program Manager, at 202-452-0333; or Dennis Willis, Special Recreation Permit Expert,  at 435-636-3623.
Signed by:                                                                 Authenticated by:
Bud Cribley                                                                Robert M. Williams
Deputy Assistant Director                                          Division of IRM Governance,WO-560
Renewable Resources and Planning

Last updated: 10-21-2009