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Bureau of Land Management

Bureau of Land Management

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), in the U. S. Department of the Interior, was created by executive reorganization in June 1946. The new agency was a merger of the Grazing Service and the General Land Office (GLO). The GLO was established in the Treasury Department by Congress in 1812 and charged with the administration of the public lands. The agency was transferred to the Department of the Interior when it was established in 1849. Throughout the 1800s and early 1900s, the GLO played the central role in administering the disposal of public lands under a multitude of different laws. But, as the nation began to move from disposal of public lands to retention of them, the services of the GLO became less needed, which helped to pave the way for the creation of the BLM. The Grazing Service was created in 1934 (as the Division of Grazing) to administer the Taylor Grazing Act .

In the 1960s, the BLM began to advocate for an organic act that would give it firmer institutional footing, would declare that the federal government planned to retain the BLM lands, and would grant the agency statutory authority to professionally manage these lands (like the Forest Service ). Each of these goals was achieved with the passage of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) in 1976. The agency was directed to manage these lands and undertake long-term planning for the use of the lands, guided by the principle of multiple use.

The BLM manages 272 million acres (110 million ha) of land, primarily in the western states. This land is of three types: Alaskan lands (92 million acres; 37.2 million ha), which is virtually unmanaged; the Oregon and California lands (2.6 million acres; 1 million ha), prime timber land in western Oregon that reverted back to the government in the early 1900s due to land grant violations; and the remaining land (177 million acres; 71.8 million ha), approximately 70% of which is in grazing districts. As a multiple use agency, the BLM manages these lands for a number of uses: fish and wildlife , forage, minerals, recreation , and timber. Additionally, FLPMA directed that the BLM review all of its lands for potential wilderness designation, a process that is now well underway. (BLM lands were not covered by the Wilderness Act of 1964). In addition to these general land management responsibilities, the BLM also issues leases for mineral development on all public lands. FLPMA also directed that all mineral claims under the 1872 Mining Law be recorded with the BLM.

The BLM is headed by a director, appointed by the President, and confirmed by the Senate. The chain of command runs from the Director in Washington to state directors in 12 western states (all but Hawaii and Washington), to district managers, who administer grazing or other districts, to resource area managers, who administer parts of the districts.

The BLM has often been compared unfavorably to the Forest Service. It has received less funding and less staff than its sibling agency, has been less professional, and has been characterized as captured by livestock and mining interests. Recent studies suggest that the administrative capacity of the BLM has improved.

[Christopher McGrory Klyza ]



U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Office of Public Affairs, 1849 C Street, Room 406-LS, Washington, DC USA 20240 (202) 452-5125, Fax: (202) 452-5124, <>

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