The Story of BLM
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The 1970s

In light of its multiple responsibilities and the complexities of its programs, the Bureau has long needed a Congressional statement of policy and a modern legislative mandate.

—Eleanor Schwartz

The 1970s

Thirty years after its formation, the Bureau of Land Management was finally granted a mission. The Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA) formally recognized what BLM had been doing on an interim basis for many years: managing the public lands under the principles of multiple use and sustained yield. FLPMA did much more, though—it granted BLM new authorities and responsibilities, amended or repealed previous legislation, prescribed specific management techniques, and established BLM's California Desert Conservation Area. The Bureau was now in the big leagues.


The road to FLPMA proved to be dramatic. Public land issues were discussed in three Congresses, with both old and new constituents involved in the debate. The bill was approved at virtually the last minute in a closed door session of a House-Senate conference committee. It is a complex bill that reflects the nation's priorities in the 1970s. Public participation and planning were the tools provided to make management decisions.

The first day of 1970, however, opened with President Nixon signing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). NEPA recognized that federal actions had impacts on the environment and required that they be analyzed before management decisions were made. The act established protection of the environment as a national goal and encouraged federal agencies to set up environmental education programs.

BLM and other federal land managers at first thought NEPA was nothing new—after all, resource specialists considered impacts of their work as a part of their jobs. But they were wrong. NEPA brought profound changes to BLM. Its provision for environmental impact statements changed the way the Bureau did business.

In addition to NEPA, Congress addressed specific environmental concerns. Legislation was passed to protect air quality and endangered species, and was amended to strengthen protection of cultural resources and water quality. The Wild and Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971 radically realigned BLM's management of these animals, requiring protection and enforcement programs.

Increased public involvement showed BLM that land management was becoming every bit as much a social and political activity as a scientific endeavor. Advisory boards were increasingly used at national, state, and local levels. Public meetings and hearings became everyday components of field operations.

Congress was asked to settle disputes among land users by specifying land uses but, more often than not, left the decisions to land managing agencies (or the courts). Environmental litigation seemed to become a way of life for BLM in the 1970s, as various interest groups filed suit under the new acts.

Under Presidents Nixon and Carter, Congress was also asked to reorganize the Interior Department—creating a Department of the Environment and Natural Resources. In each proposal, the Forest Service and other Agriculture Department agencies (e.g., the Soil Conservation Service) would have been moved into the new Department; under Carter's proposal BLM would have been remade in the Forest Service's image. Neither effort was successful, but President Nixon was successful in getting his fallback position accepted—the Environmental Protection Agency was created in 1972.

The number and type of employees in BLM increased as the Bureau's environmental responsibilities increased. BLM's cultural resources staff grew from one specialist at the Denver Service Center in 1970 to more than 120 (one in almost every field office) only 5 years later. Total employees in the Bureau rose from 4,300 in 1970 to 9,600 in 1980, while its budget increased from $118 million to $588 million.

In 1973, the nation was jolted by a major energy crisis. While waiting in mile-long gas lines, millions of Americans began to consider the nation's long-term energy needs. Although the environmental movement never diminished in the public's consciousness, its prominence soon gave way to concern over America's energy future.

Despite passage of the Public Rangelands Improvement Act in 1978, many of the Bureau's traditional constituents felt BLM had bypassed them in a rush to embrace new public land users. The Sagebrush Rebellion grew out of opposition to the federal government's enlarged role in public land management. In 1979, the Nevada legislature passed a resolution calling for state ownership of BLM public lands. Four other western states soon passed similar legislation, but the movement quickly dissipated with the election of Ronald Reagan to the presidency in 1980.

The 1970s were every bit as tumultuous—and exciting—as the previous decade. Three new Directors served BLM after Boyd Rasmussen: Burt Silcock (1971-73), Curt Berklund (1973-77), and Frank Gregg (1978-81). Silcock, a career Bureau employee and Alaska State Director from 1965 to 1971, was called upon by Secretary Walter Hickel to handle critical Alaska issues in the early 1970s and to continue Rasmussen's work in obtaining an "organic act" for the Bureau.


Final passage of FLPMA was attained under Berklund, who presided over a significant growth in BLM's management responsibilities. BLM implemented a cultural resources program, developed wilderness review procedures, and established new minerals policies—all priority items during Berklund's tenure—reflecting BLM's growth into a true multiple use agency.

Frank Gregg began the Bureau's implementation of FLPMA, finalized new mineral leasing policies, and oversaw the Bureau's efforts in securing passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980.

by Burt Silcock

Burt Silcock
Burt Silcock (Jennifer Reese)

Editor's Note: Burt Silcock rose through the ranks in BLM as a range conservationist in Billings Montana in 1948, to Alaska State Director in 1965, and Director in 1971. In 1973 he was appointed Federal Co-Chairman of the Joint Federal-State Land Use Planning Commission for Alaska.

As I reflect back on my career, I don't believe there has ever been such a "window of opportunity" as existed during the 50s-60s and early 70s. The atmosphere was ripe for growth, both for the Bureau and its employees. Finally, America was beginning to recognize and acknowledge the value of our public lands. I am extremely proud to have been involved in this period of history, and cherish all the acquaintances of the dedicated men and women I worked with who laid the groundwork for today's true multiple use management.

Little did I realize, when I started with the Bureau in 1948, where my career would lead me. I felt I had a solid grasp of resource problems, and the BLM employees were a real asset. However, with all the experience I brought with me, we still had a tremendous challenge of continuing the course of good public land management.

When I became Director, the search for a national land use policy concerning public lands was in full swing. The Public Land Law Review Commission had completed its study and the Classification and Multiple Use Act and the Public Sale Act had expired. The President had submitted a reorganization plan to Congress to establish a Department of Natural Resources and an Organic Act for the Bureau. The BLM had developed a long-range land use planning system for multiple use management of the public lands.

The challenges that we faced while I was Director were signs of a changing nation. America's demand for use and enjoyment of public land for recreation had reached an all-time high. Off-road vehicles (ORVs) made it possible for users to reach heretofore inaccessible areas. Cultural, archaeological and physical features of the landscape were being destroyed by uncontrolled use. Facilities to provide the basic need of sanitation were rarely available and our enforcement capabilities for desert areas did not exist. We developed regulations for the management and control of ORV use in accordance with the Presidential Executive Order of 1972. This finally gave BLM the tools to control and direct this growing program.

The need for clean sources of energy to meet the nation's demands for growth and development focused on coal, oil shale, and geothermal steam. This had a major impact on the Bureau's energy and minerals programs and really tested our young planning system.

The Native Claims Settlement Act for Alaska, passed by Congress in 1971, required the most massive redistribution of land ownership in the history of the nation. The Act provided for a transfer of approximately 44 million acres of land to private ownership and the withdrawal of 80 million acres of federal land for parks, refuges and national forests. The values of these lands were previously recognized by the Bureau of Land Management's classification process in the late 1960s, when I was the State Director in Alaska.

The uncontrolled use of the public lands by wild horses and burros was in direct competition with domestic livestock and wildlife. Attempts to control this use resulted in a controversy with the wild horse sympathizers. The Wild Horse and Burro Act of 1971 was passed by Congress to establish a policy for management of these animals while providing them a legitimate place on the range. We developed procedures to provide a program for management of these animals under the Act and setup the Adoption Program. A National Wild Horse Advisory Council was appointed to provide federal land managers with advice based on their knowledge and experience on this highly visible public land use.

Under our newly formed planning system, the Bureau's Western Oregon Management Plan was implemented July 1, 1971. This plan met the requirements of modern legislation dealing with air and water quality, improving the environment, protection and enhancement of other resources located on the timber sale contract areas, construction of roads to higher standards, protection of scenic corridors along roads, and limiting logging adjacent to recreational sites. This new plan resulted in an annual sale reduction of 150 million board feet. This was due in part to environmental considerations, the destructive 1962 windstorm and the Oxbow fire of 1966.

The Environmental Impact Statement process was refined to meet the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act. We initiated programmatic environmental statements on broad program areas of coal, oil shale, upland oil and gas leasing, timber harvest, and management of domestic livestock.

The proposed construction of the Alaska Pipeline was a major project requiring the Bureau's workforce to develop environmental and technical guidelines and monitoring for a safe construction of the project. The Final EIS on the pipeline was completed in March 1972. Environmental stipulations to manage construction of the pipeline were far more stringent than any previously established. This required extensive cooperation and coordination with industry, the State of Alaska, and the federal agencies involved.

During this period of time we expanded the role of Eastern States Office. It had been serving as a land office for many years and the need for a full service office in that region of the country was rapidly growing. This required a new State Director and supporting staff.

I can't stress enough the admiration I had for the BLM workforce then and now. Also, the relationship that existed between my office and the Secretary of the Interior made for extremely pleasant working conditions. I always felt that Secretary Rogers C.B. Morton and Assistant Secretary Harrison Loesch would back us on tough decisions and I have many examples where they stood right with us.

I'm still interested in public land management and try to stay involved by volunteering for projects which I enjoy. It was an interesting and sometimes hard ride from my early years in Billings, Montana, but I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to complete the trip without getting bucked off.


The same year Americans landed on the moon, Congress passed the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA). Senator Henry Jackson was instrumental in getting the act through Congress. In the late 1960s, a symposium he organized recommended that Congress establish a national policy on environmental quality. There was even discussion on the Hill on whether Americans should have a constitutional right to a clean environment.

Attesting to the strength of the environmental movement, NEPA passed the Senate unanimously. President Nixon waited a few days so he could sign the bill into law on January 1, 1970. Other than placing environmental protection on a par with motherhood and apple pie, few knew what the act would bring.

NEPA required federal agencies to consider the potential impacts from proposed major actions and created the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) to implement its provisions. According to Ron Hofman, then acting Chief of the Division of Planning and Environmental Coordination, the idea of environmental impact statements (EISs) was added to the act at the last minute to provide an "action-forcing mechanism" for agencies to (1) discuss their actions with the public and with state and local governments, and (2) to formulate management alternatives after extensive on-the-ground evaluation.

Council on

Once draft statements were presented to the public for review and comment, final statements were filed with CEQ. The Interior Department established the Office of Environmental Project Review to direct and approve EIS activities in the various bureaus.

Implementation of NEPA in BLM was assigned to Irving Senzel, Assistant Director for Lands and Minerals. To handle this new and rapidly growing workload, the Division of Program Development was renamed the Division of Planning and Environmental Coordination (P&EC). Under Hofman, the Division hired several new employees, including a sociologist, an economist, and an environmental education specialist, to review impacts on the "human" as well as the physical environment. P&EC staffs were also established in State and District Offices. For major projects, interdisciplinary EIS teams were set up.

Lacking guidelines from CEQ and the Office of Environmental Project Review, BLM first had to clarify what a "major federal action" requiring an EIS was. The Bureau also needed to decide when other kinds of environmental analyses would be appropriate. The idea of doing environmental assessments (EAs) originated in BLM and was later picked up by the Department and incorporated into CEQ guidelines. P&EC issued a BLM Manual on NEPA requirements in 1971 that was used as a model by other agencies.

by Ron Hofman
Associate State Director, California State Office

Editor's Note: Ron Hofman was in charge of the Division of Planning and Environmental Coordination in Washington when NEPA passed, and continued in that post until 1976.

I guess it was a case of being in the right place at the right time. In 1970, I was given the job of implementing NEPA, which came to have a dramatic impact on the entire organization.

It seems like I had been preparing for NEPA during my entire career in BLM. When I began as a forester in Colorado in 1958, we didn't have a specialist for every program—so I had to learn about the range program, wildlife issues, recreation, fire, soil and watershed. BLM was really in the job of managing all these resources together as systems. So when NEPA required us to look at the effects our actions were having across the board, I and other land managers could relate to that concept. The main issue was to fit this ecosystem approach into the Bureau's customary narrow way of doing business, in the program-by-program channels of BLM's policy, procedure, budget.

The answer to the program "blinders" problem was to initiate an interdisciplinary approach to analysis and problem solving, while preparing environmental impact statements or environmental analysis documents. Here again the tendency was for specialists to individually start these documents. We had to put together some fairly specific training sessions, so after issuing BLM manuals on NEPA, my staff and I visited each state to conduct this training. Its basic premise was to assemble specialists on an interdisciplinary team, all working together to conduct the analyses. The Bureau's policies and procedures for conducting analysis of environmental impacts were among the first to be formalized by federal agencies.

Another aspect of NEPA which I think the Bureau responded very well to, was the requirement for looking at impacts on the "human" environment. The Bureau understood that a lot of what we did, especially in grazing, logging, and mineral development, would continue to have a large impact on small western communities and their cultures. It was with some pride that I hired the first sociologist in the Bureau in 1972. It was also nice that she was a woman and that she was black. Many more people from the social sciences were hired throughout the Bureau to respond to NEPA, and these folks contributed to the learning and capability of the organization. It was a major growth step for us in understanding ourselves as a multiple-use agency.

There was a down side to implementing NEPA, though. The legal challenges to projects forced agencies, including the Bureau, to think in the defensive terms of legal adequacy of documents. This took away from the initiative and motivation of the Bureau and weakened our opportunity to build on our ecological skills. On balance, however, NEPA was great for BLM. It started us thinking in ecosystem terms, using interdisciplinary teams, adding social science skills, and enhancing peoples' knowledge of the environment.

by Ron Hofman
Associate State Director, California State Office

Earth Day Number One, April 22, 1970, was an exciting time. Elementary schools, high schools, junior colleges, and universities were calling us asking for speakers to talk about the environment. How was it being threatened? What could the public do about it?

Secretary Hickel established a Youth Task Force to respond to questions and issues that young people were raising about the quality of the environment. Linda Bemis in the Division of Planning and Environmental Coordination was BLM's representative on the Task Force.

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) passed in response to an overwhelming national concern about the environment. It had provisions for providing citizens with a better understanding of the environment and how to protect it. This authority, together with the demand from the public, gave BLM the opportunity to respond and serve the public in a positive way.

Working with the Oregon State Office, we lined up two college biology majors to draft a teachers guide which could be used at the elementary school level. The idea was to provide teachers with lesson plans which would get students to observe and learn about the environment in the classroom and in the school yard. This draft, finalized by Linda Bemis, was tested in the Charlottesville, Virginia, school system with much success. Later, it was adopted as required teaching material in the entire elementary school system in the State of Pennsylvania. The final teachers guide was called "All Around You."

We also came up with the idea of using public lands as "Environmental Study Areas." This was accomplished by getting some district managers excited about the idea and then directing them to do it in annual work plan directives. A DM would typically hire a local 6th-grade science teacher to work as a summer temporary, and using a good BLM site near town, the teacher would develop a week-long environmental science curriculum. Once the school year started, the teacher would schedule sessions on the BLM site and use BLM specialists to help teach.

Students learned a great deal about biology, about the Bureau, and especially about the importance to their local community of maintaining a healthy environment on the public lands. Among others we established highly successful environmental study areas at Casper, Boise, and Billings and were gratified at the recognition and positive support BLM received from local communities.

The idea of an environmental education program continued through the mid-1970s in BLM and the Forest Service. It was a major advance for BLM because it caused the public to realize the importance of the public lands and resources in the lives of people and in western communities, and the importance of maintaining the health of public land ecosystems. I am very proud of the Bureau's work in environmental education. Perhaps in a different form and context, the idea and the work remains out there in BLM today.

BLM also had to decide at what level of a program it needed to do an EIS. Allotments, resource areas, districts, states, regions, and nationwide programs were all considered. When BLM needed to establish national policy, it wrote a programmatic EIS. For important on-the-ground activities, field offices wrote EISs. BLM soon realized it would need to prepare a "hierarchy of EISs," according to Hofman, at different levels of the organization.

Oil and gas leasing statements were prepared at the state level when decisions were reached to offer a certain number of acres for lease. BLM, however, never knew how many wells would actually be developed; it therefore prepared environmental assessments for each site developed and imposed protective stipulations for sensitive areas. For geothermal steam resources, BLM estimated field sizes, came up with development scenarios, prepared an EIS, and then did EAs on actual development.

Hierarchy of

The range program started preparing a programmatic EIS in 1972 to address Bureauwide range concerns and to establish national policy for the program. BLM's coal program staff analyzed impacts at a regional level when regional leasing decisions were reached but wrote programmatic EISs to examine potential impacts of new federal leasing policies (see Minerals).

Many in the environmental community found NEPA a convenient tool for asserting their criticisms of BLM and used it in attempts to modify BLM's management of the public lands. When BLM completed its programmatic EIS on the range program, it was sued by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) for not considering the impacts of local actions by preparing local-level statements (see Range). If the Bureau prepared local statements that were not grouped into a programmatic EIS, it was also criticized.

BLM also reviewed EISs prepared by other agencies. Its workload was often quite heavy because the Bureau had assembled a wide variety of expertise to handle NEPA requirements. BLM learned a painful lesson reviewing the Alaska Pipeline EIS. Several BLM reviewers were critical of the statement, and word of the criticism was picked up by columnist Jack Anderson. The Bureau soon learned if it could criticize other agency EISs, it could expect the same in return! An era of "politeness" soon developed in which BLM restricted EIS reviews to areas it was directly responsible for.

Environmental education was one of the most positive outgrowths of NEPA. The net result of NEPA on BLM, however, was to cause it to consider its actions in a new light. Examining the cumulative impacts of its actions fostered an ecosystem approach to land management—and strengthened BLM's multiple use philosophy. While other legislation focused on specific resources, NEPA asked land managers to look at all of them together. Out of this developed an interdisciplinary approach to solving problems. According to Ron Hofman, NEPA put BLM's decisionmaking process into a "holistic context" by having the Bureau consider ail resources equally.

Multiple Use

In the early 1970s, funding to prepare EISs was only slightly increased; BLM had to divert time and effort from other activities to handle the increased EIS workload and to stipulate mitigation of adverse impacts for actions that were approved. However, it soon became clear that NEPA requirements had to be met. Thousands of day-to-day actions—permits, leases, and licenses—depended on the completion of environmental assessments and statements. BLM's program work would have come to a stop if funding for NEPA work wasn't increased. In the end it was, with Bureau appropriations almost doubling (accounting for inflation) by 1980.

NEPA also had much to do with the increasing diversity of BLM employees. Retired State Director Clair Whitlock recalls that BLM's first "Cauldron"—a Bureauwide employee orientation program held in Reno, Nevada—was attended by 60 to 70 people almost evenly split between range conservationists and foresters, with only a few wildlife biologists and women represented. In 1976, two sessions of the Cauldron were held; 56 occupational skills were represented, including marine biologists and cultural resource specialists, plus many more women and minorities.

Diversity of

For the public, NEPA served to heighten awareness of resource interrelationships in natural systems. According to natural resources professor Sally K. Fairfax, NEPA became the "cornerstone" for the environmental movement's participation in government decisionmaking. But this participation was to be increasingly—and unexpectedly—expressed through litigation. While NEPA had a decidedly positive influence on BLM, according to Ron Hofman, "its use as a legal playground took an edge off its grand vision."


FLPMA is a complex, detailed act that incorporated provisions recommended by the Public Land Law Review Commission (PLLRC), the Interior Department, and individual members of Congress. Getting both houses of Congress to consider and pass an "organic act" establishing policy for the management of BLM lands after PLLRC issued its report in 1970 was a monumental undertaking. Bills were introduced by the administration, the House, and the Senate in the 92nd, 93rd, and 94th Congresses. BLM employees had much to do with the eventual passage of FLPMA, thanks to the continuing support of Directors Rasmussen, Silcock, and Berklund, and of the Department under Secretaries Walter Hickel and Rogers C.B. Morton.

Bureau employees played key roles in writing the administration bill: Mike Harvey, Chief, Division of Legislation and Regulation, and Eleanor Schwartz, who later took the job, drafted the legislation and, with Associate Director George Turcott, "sold" it to the Department and the Congress. Irving Senzel (Assistant Director, Legislation and Plans) was the "brains" and editor-in-chief of the bill, according to Harvey, while Bob Wolf (Assistant to Director Rasmussen) analyzed the PLLRC report.

Play Key

"My first job was to get and keep strong support from the Department, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Council on Environmental Quality, which in those days was a key player in the administration. My second job was to get and keep strong support from Congress," said Harvey, who left BLM in 1973 to take a job with Senator Jackson, Chairman of the Interior Affairs Committee.

by Mike Harvey

Editor's Note: Mike Harvey began his career with BLM in 1960. After receiving a law degree from Georgetown University, he became a staffer for the Public Land Law Review Commission. Harvey returned to BLM in 1968 as Chief, Division of Legislation and Regulation, and in 1973 became Chief Counsel for the Senate's Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

On June 20, 1970 the Public Land Law Review Commission (PLLRC) presented its long-awaited report to President Nixon. This event triggered a response by BLM that led directly to another long-awaited event: enactment of an "Organic Act" for the public lands administered by BLM, the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA).

All of us in BLM knew the PLLRC study (originally due in 1968) had been used as an excuse to delay much needed modernization of the public land management mission and authority of BLM. While the Report, containing over 300 recommendations, covered all federal lands, its greatest significance was for BLM. Other agencies had clear statutory mandates. BLM was the primary target of the Report and everyone knew it.

We wanted a rapid and reasonable response so no one could speculate about or misunderstand BLM's views on the issues. Our response also had to be factual and analytical so BLM could establish the basic legislative parameters that would gain secretarial and presidential approval and significant public and congressional support.

By July 8 we had critiqued the Report and by July 17 we submitted our initial analysis to the Secretary. Within the next 5 months the Bureau prepared a 250-page detailed analysis, but our initial analysis identified the major themes and principles we thought should be adopted. At the same time, BLM was implementing the decision by Secretary Hickel and Assistant Secretary Loesch to being modernizing public land laws and regulations.

On July 2, 1970 the Director stated, "This work is obviously of utmost importance to the future management of the public lands and resources administered by BLM. It must be given a very high priority..." Only July 20, 1971, the National Resource Lands Management Act was submitted to Congress. Secretary Morton did not exaggerate when he told Congress, "This bill represents an historic proposal. The Department is proposing legislation which, for the first time, would state the national policies governing the use and management of 450 million acres of the public domain..."

Three of us put both efforts together: Irving Senzel, Assistant Director Legislation and Plans; Bob Wolf, Assistant to the Director; and me. First we needed strong support from the Department, OMB, and the Council on Environmental Quality, a key player in the Administration. Second, we needed strong support from Congress. With extraordinary support from Secretaries Hickel and Morton and Assistant Secretary Loesch, the first task was relatively easy. The administration's 1971 proposal was the product. The second task took 5 more years and I had to leave BLM and go to the "Hill" to get it done. The final congressional action approving FLPMA—Senate passage of the Senate-House Conference Report—came on my 42nd birthday: October 1, 1976. What a birthday present!

The administration's bill, the "National Resource Lands Management Act," was introduced in the Senate in 1971. This bill focused exclusively on BLM, requiring it to inventory public land resources, giving priority to areas of critical environmental concern (ACECs). The bill was not considered by the full Senate and was reintroduced in the 93rd Congress. The Senate declined to consider it, instead passing a bill introduced by Senator Henry Jackson. The House took no action on either bill.


Jackson's bill was reintroduced in the Senate in the 94th Congress. It differed from the administration's bill "sometimes with only subtle changes or differences in emphasis," according to Schwartz. Like the administration bill, it authorized management of BLM's national resource lands under the principles of multiple use and sustained yield, and called for a return of fair market value to the government for the use and sale of its lands.

Jackson's bill contained provisions on inventory, planning, public participation and advisory boards; authorities for law enforcement; and provisions for sales, exchanges, and acquisitions of land. The bill called for a working capital fund to be established in BLM and for a land use plan to be completed on the California Desert. It also contained amendments to the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920 to increase the percentage of revenues paid to the states, provisions for mineral impact relief loans and oil shale revenues, and requirements for the recordation of mining claims. This bill finally passed the Senate on February 25, 1976.


The House of Representatives took a different approach. In 1972 the House Interior and Insular Affairs Committee drafted a bill, the "National Land Policy, Planning, and Management Act," incorporating many of PLLRC's recommendations. The bill proposed uniform land use planning and management activities for all federal land managing agencies but was not reported out of committee in time to be considered by the full House.

House Bills

In its next session, Congressman Wayne Aspinall was absent, having lost a primary election. Under Representative John Melcher of Montana, the Subcommittee on Public Lands rewrote the House's legislation, following a lengthy series of meetings (about 68 in all) to discuss public land issues. A bill was not completed in time to be considered by the full House in the 93rd Congress, but was introduced in its next session.

The "Federal Land Policy and Management Act" was similar to Senator Jackson's bill but had provisions relating to both BLM and Forest Service lands regarding grazing fee formulas, leases and permits, advisory boards, and wild horses and burros. The bill also created the California Desert Conservation Area and granted the Bureau law enforcement authority.

By this time, Tim Monroe succeeded Irving Senzel as Assistant Director for Legislation and Plans and, under Director Curt Berklund, continued the Bureau's work with the Hill to clarify questions on BLM's management activities and legislative needs for the public lands.

by Eleanor R. Schwartz
Division of Legislation and Regulatory Management

By August 1976, a comprehensive act relating to the management of public lands had been passed by each house of Congress. The Senate disagreed to amendments made by the House and requested a conference. Conferees were appointed and Congressman Melcher was elected chairman. Because many primaries had been scheduled for early September, the first meeting of the conferees could not be held until September 15.

The first difference addressed by the conferees was the title of the Act. The House called it the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, while the Senate called it the National Resource Lands Management Act. The Senate conferees deferred to the House on the title and on the term to be used for BLM lands—public lands—although they felt it was a confusing term.

And so it went. The conferees met four times between September 15 and 22. Most issues were resolved rather easily but four issues proved so difficult that they almost killed the bill. The Senate conferees objected to the House provisions on grazing fee formulas, 10-year grazing permits, advisory boards and permits, and wanted a requirement that mining claimants apply for patent within 10 years of recording claims. The House conferees objected to that.

Before the end of a 5-hour session on September 22, Senator Metcalf of Montana offered a compromise package in which grazing fee provisions were deleted, all grazing leases would be for 10 years, grazing advisory board functions would be limited to recommendations for expenditure of range improvement funds, and the Senate language on mining claims would be applicable only to claims filed after enactment of the Act, not to pre-existing claims.

The conferees could not agree on the package that day but agreed to meet again on September 23rd, just in advance of the conference on the National Forest Management Act of 1976. Substitute compromises were offered by a House and Senate conferee but both were rejected. Chairman Melcher adjourned the conference saying he saw no point in prolonging the meeting. At that time, hopes for the enactment of a land management act for BLM were dim.

The 94th Congress was in its last-minute rush before adjournment. But as with many pieces of landmark legislation, a compromise was reached at the eleventh hour. On September 28th Congressman Melcher made a final effort to reach a compromise. He called a meeting for 5:30 p.m. that evening. Very few persons, other than conferees and staff, were permitted in the conference room. Within a few minutes of coming together, the conferees took a break. Word spread among the many persons filling the corridors that the meeting was going badly. However, when the conferees reassembled at 7:00 p.m., those present voted almost immediately for the compromise suggested earlier.

In keeping with its somewhat stormy and cliff-hanger history, the conference report was passed by the House on September 30th and by the Senate on October 1st, just hours before the 94th session ended. The Act was signed by the President on October 21, 1976.

by George Turcott

Editor's Note: BLM put a great deal of effort into getting an "organic act." Former Associate Director George Turcott has another perspective to tell in getting FLPMA passed. Mr. Turcott began working for BLM as a range conservationist in Elko, Nevada, in 1950. He served as a district manager in Canon City, Colorado, and Chief, Resource Management in Montana before moving to Washington in 1964. Mr. Turcott was Associate Director from 1972 to 1979.

During the waning weeks of the 94th Congress, senators, representatives, and committee staffs worked to fashion a compromise acceptable to both Houses. The final hurdle, a point on grazing fees, came late one afternoon. The conferees couldn't rewrite the language or make compromises, even though some of the other compromises in the bill were contradictory. The final vote called by the joint chairman of the conference came out a tie, which in the legislative process is non-passage—you have to have a majority of both the Senate and House conferees voting in favor of the compromise.

Irving Senzel, Eleanor Schwartz, and I had been working on the Hill with Mike Harvey trying to work out language with these people and explain the effects of different languages they substituted in committee. I think the lowest point in my life—or my whole career—was the day FLPMA hadn't passed.

BLM put everything it had into getting this act. Many of us oldtimers in the Bureau said that before we retired we wanted a basic organic act—and not all this crossword puzzle kind of stuff we'd had to work with for 30 years.

So here we were with six years' effort apparently down the drain. I waited until early evening and called up Senator Metcalf, the co-chairman of the conference for the Senate, and asked if there was anything we could do on the grazing fee issue, where he could call everybody back together again to make one more effort. He said no: "all the procedures are past, George, we lost."

Senator Metcalf was very much in favor of passage, so I tried one more angle with him. I said, "well can we work some language in there about some studies and a report back again?" Doing studies was, and is, a common legitimizing technique—it affirmed we'd still consider certain things, such as fair market value and the points stockman were making as to cost of production and so forth. I finally pleaded "just do it for me. Make one more try." He did. And, lo and behold, that night we got one more vote—the one vote we needed—and that's how we got FLPMA and the study on grazing fees.

FLPMA was expanded tremendously from the original draft as it developed to the final. Section after section of it is as detailed as a regulation or a Bureau manual procedure—and that's detailed. I think it's a natural result of the pulling and tugging that occurred in the Public Land Law Review Commission, of saying something about one resource and at the same time providing counterbalances in other areas of the act. It's a very detailed, difficult act and had to undergo clarification by later Congresses.

The House and Senate reconciled their bills only at the last minute in 1976, as described by Eleanor Schwartz and Associate Director George Turcott. FLPMA's major provisions are as follows:

Congressional Review of Land Withdrawals—While FLPMA provided for the continuation of all classifications and withdrawals made under the Classification and Multiple Use Act, Section 202 also required BLM to review these actions when preparing new land use plans. Congress was empowered to review sales of land in excess of 2,500 acres or withdrawals of tracts over 5,000 acres, as well as decisions on principal uses of lands in areas greater than 100,000 acres.

Provisions of

By the end of the decade, BLM had taken little action on reviewing existing withdrawals or classifications; it was preparing an inventory of these actions and implementing new land use plans (Resource Management Plans) in the field. Prior to FLPMA, 67 million acres of the public lands had been formally withdrawn from the public domain, including land for BLM and Forest Service recreation sites, land adjacent to National Parks, land to protect watersheds, and land for Forest Service roadside zones. Under the CMU Act, BLM had also classified more than 150 million acres of its own lands in the lower 48 states for retention, plus an additional 32 million acres in Alaska.

Recreation and Public Purposes Act Amendments—FLPMA amended the R&PP Act to increase the land BLM could sell or lease to state and local governments, and it required public participation in all decisions to dispose of lands under the act.

Law Enforcement—FLPMA authorized BLM to hire a force of uniformed rangers in the California Desert, but required the Bureau to rely on local officials as much as possible through cooperative agreements with local enforcement agencies.

Finance and Budget—FLPMA provided BLM with long-needed authorities that made its work more efficient. FLPMA established BLM's Working Capital Fund. It also allowed BLM to accept contributions and donations for specific activities on BLM lands (e.g., wildlife habitat improvements or recreation developments) and allowed BLM to establish service charges for applications and documents.

Land Exchanges and Acquisitions—FLPMA provided for cash payments from the government to equalize values of exchanged lands. It also gave BLM authority for acquisition under its land use plans but limited the government's power of eminent domain. BLM was allowed to use Land and Water Conservation funds to acquire public recreation lands.

Special Management Areas—Section 202 of FLPMA authorized BLM to identify areas of critical environmental concern (ACECs) through its planning process. ACECs were defined as areas "within the public lands where special management attention is required" to protect "historic, cultural or scenic areas, fish and wildlife resources, or other natural systems or processes...."

Livestock Grazing—FLPMA authorized a study of grazing fees but prohibited any increase in the fee in 1977. To assure long-term stability and use of BLM lands by the livestock industry, it also authorized 10-year grazing permits and required 2-year notices of cancellation. BLM grazing advisory boards were directed to advise BLM on the development of Allotment Management Plans and the allocation of range improvement funds.

by Curt Berklund

Curt Berklund
Curt Berklund (Jennifer Reese)

Editor's Note: Dr. Curt Berklund was retired when he came to Washington early in 1970. He is again retired, living in Spokane, Washington, working the financial markets and managing a private foundation he set up to fund, among other things, scholarships in resource management at the University of Idaho. And he still uses a sharp eye and quick reflexes to participate in trap shooting competitions.

The year 1973 was a threshold year for the Bureau. Many changes were in the wind as the nation grappled with the conflicts of Watergate and a mid-East oil embargo. As a staff assistant and Deputy Assistant Secretary in the office of Assistant Secretary Harrison Loesch, I had been involved with Bureau policy development and observed the need for administrative change. When I assumed the Director's job in July 1973, one of my first actions was to leave Washington and meet with the State Directors. I had the highest confidence in the State Directors and the field structure. They needed leadership from Washington and the opportunity to carry out the programs and be supported, not second-guessed or "rolled." The State Directors needed someone who treated them candidly with respect.

The Bureau had few trusted constituencies. Strong political support was needed to build a record as a professional natural resource agency that would manage the programs on-the-ground in the full multiple-use context. One of my desires was to establish a way of building our credibility outside the government and have groups and key individuals we could count on. We went to work with state and county governments through the Western Governors and the National Association of Counties to help build a constituency among those who were closest to the everyday decisions BLM managers were making. Over the years, this effort really paid dividends. We also worked on improving our relationships with the news media.

One of the more important tasks to begin building credibility with Congress. We organized the Bureau's first formal, well-staffed, Congressional liasison organization; trained the people; and gave them support and information necessary to deal effectively with Congress. I also spent countless hours working with key members of the Senate and House of Representatives to assure that BLM's message was presented from a foundation of professionalism in natural resource management. Former Members such as Julia Butler Hansen, Alan Bible, and Wayne Aspinall, already supportive of the Bureau's mission, needed a source of credible information. During my tenure as Director, we effectively tripled the Bureau's budget and added skills to district and resource area offices that were unheard of in the 1960s. I was adamant during this period of growth that the Washington Office would not siphon off the increased positions and budget dollars. We stayed lean and efficient. I split energy mineral programs from the renewable resource programs in order to give better leadership to both. This resulted in giving our offshore and onshore leasing programs more visibility and effectiveness. We leased more acreage (OCS and public domain) for oil and gas exploration than had been leased previously. We cleared lots of hurdles in setting up a geothermal leasing program, and today a considerable amount of electricity is generated in the West from that source.

Delegating the authority and responsibility to the field comes to mind as one of my most notable achievements. I felt that if the field organization had leadership, authority, and support from Washington it would give confidence to the field managers that they were in charge and were accountable for their program assignments. Then, they would make their decisions with knowledge that Washington wouldn't cave in to some real or perceived political challenge and "roll" the decisions. This also helped the Washington staff realize their role was to develop policies and procedures and evaluate the field manager's performance, not dictate how the field should operate.

We won control over our NEPA implementation processes in the Bureau previously centralized in the Secretary's office. We accomplished it only because the professionals in the Bureau were given the responsibility to show we could write, edit, and review our own environmental documents. That road was rocky at times but the superb help from countless individuals allowed us to internalize the program and make it work as part of the overall decision process.

We worked very hard to secure approval of an "organic act" for the Bureau. Trying to administer programs governed by over 3,000 land laws was virtually impossible. The task divided us and did not generate the constituent support we needed. We received special dispensation from the Department and the administration to work out the legislation, because I had chaired the Department's committee to review the Public Land Law Review Commission's report and make recommendations for implementation. Former Secretary Tom Kleppe was instrumental in providing BLM the support we needed to cut the deals and work out the language we felt was required to formulate the legislation. We fought hard on key issues such as wilderness review, law enforcement authority, the California Desert National Conservation Area and administrative provisions needed to streamline our approach to multiple-use management. I personally opposed making the Director a presidential appointee; however, we were able to legislate some level of protection for the career ranks. I established the organization to implement FLPMA and implementation began while I was still Director. We set up a multi-disciplinary committee of Washington managers and staff and made considerable progress in setting out basic guidelines.

One of our additional achievements was securing congressional approval of the Payments In Lieu of Taxes legislation. Recognized as truly "good neighbor" legislation, this helped to reduce much of the friction with local governments in the West. We modified the Alaska pipeline environmental statement and secured approval for the construction permits.

We started a record search through the Eastern States Office to identify federal coal resources in the Appalachian Region. We were losing federal coal simply because the records were inaccurate. This program prevented more serious criticism of the Bureau by Congress and others because we identified the problem and sought solutions.

As I look back beyond the dozen years or so since I had close association with the Bureau, I appreciated the opportunity to have served. I made some close friends and learned much. While my association with BLM is fairly limited, I still keep in touch with a few friends and welcome calls at any time.

Wilderness—Section 602 of FLPMA directed BLM to review the public lands for wilderness potential as set forth in the 1964 Wilderness Act. The act also directed BLM to conduct early wilderness reviews on all lands designated as primitive or natural areas before November 1, 1975.

Wild Horses and Burros—FLPMA amended the Wild and Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act to authorize the use of helicopters in horse and burro roundups. Wild horse and burro populations had more than tripled since passage of the Wild and Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act in 1971—horse numbers on BLM lands in the West were estimated at more than 60,000, compared to 17,000 in the late 1960s.

Minerals Management—FLPMA modified the formulas for distribution of funds collected under the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920 and the Geothermal Steam Act of 1970. It also required persons holding claims under the General Mining Law of 1872 to record their claims with BLM within three years. FLPMA authorized loans to state and local governments to relieve social and economic impacts of mineral development and directed the Secretary to develop stipulations that would prevent unnecessary or undue degradation of the land.

BLM organizational structure in 1977

Other Provisions—FLPMA established the California Desert Conservation Area and directed BLM to develop a land allocation plan for the area by 1980. FLPMA also repealed the Homestead Act (except in Alaska where it was given a 10-year life) and other settlement acts. The act also decided how future directors of BLM would be selected—by the president, with approval from the Senate.


In the 1970s, systematic land use planning was implemented in the field. Management Framework Plans (MFPs) were prepared for 80 to 85 percent of BLM lands in the lower 48 states by 1976. Data from resource inventories was considered with economic and social information to develop and compare management alternatives. After holding a series of public meetings, BLM Resource Areas revised and finalized the MFPs, and implemented them as management tools.

Ironically, NEPA had much to do with the demise of BLM's first successful, Bureauwide planning system. Court decisions had made EISs the Bureau's primary tool for analyzing resources, impacts, and management alternatives on the ground—especially for BLM's range activities. MFPs were becoming duplicative. Also, Section 202 of FLPMA required BLM to develop a more comprehensive land use planning system for "developing, displaying, and assessing" management alternatives; it also directed the Bureau to strengthen its coordination with state and local governments.

Therefore, starting in 1977, BLM began developing Resource Management Plans (RMPs), which were to be prepared in the field in conjunction with Environmental Impact Statements. In 1979, BLM phased in a transition from MFPs to RMPs, whereby scheduled updates of MFPs would be replaced by RMPs. By 1988, 61 RMPs were completed Bureauwide—about half of the RMPs that will eventually be prepared. The Bureau has scheduled replacement of all its MFPs by 1994.

The basic steps in completing an Resource Management Plan are:

1. Develop public participation plan.

2. Identify issues.

3. Develop planning criteria (set standards for data collection and formulation of management alternatives).

4. Gather information, inventory resources.

5. Analyze management situation.

6. Formulate management alternatives.

7. Estimate effects of alternatives.

8. Select preferred alternative.

9. Publish draft RMP/EIS (90-day comment period).

10. Publish final RMP/EIS (30-day protest period).

11. Monitor and evaluate overall plan.

12. Prepare activity plans.

by Robert A. Jones

Editor's Note: Bob Jones began his career with BLM in 1953. After holding lands and realty positions in Montana and the Washington Office, he became Chief Office of Program Development—later the Division of Planning and Environmental Coordination. Bob Jones and his staff developed and implemented BLM's land use planning system in the 1960s and 1970s. Indeed, Bob Jones was the Bureau's planning system until his retirement in 1981.

One of the most interesting periods in the history of BLM's planning program was the change from Management Framework Plans (MFPs) to Resource Management Plans (RMPs). This is how it happened. The Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) requires land use plans as a basis for public land decisions. It also requires the Department to publish regulations specifying how these plans are to be prepared. BLM initially felt that MFPs would meet requirements of FLPMA.

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires federal agencies to analyze and consider environmental impacts of all major federal actions, and to prepare and publish Environmental Impact Statements (EISs) when these actions significantly affect the environment. These EISs are then filed with the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). The Departmental Office of Environmental Project Review (OEPR) directed NEPA implementation in Interior. OEPR exercised the Secretary's authority to approve and file EISs, and was heavily involved in the EIS process. They often specified alternatives to be analyzed and the level of analysis. The bureaus could not approve and file EISs even when they had authority and responsibility for the decisions involved. These overlapping responsibilities created much tension between OEPR and BLM.

While there was much pressure on BLM to file EISs for proposed MFP approvals, no BLM director wanted to invite the OEPR involvement that would follow. Instead, BLM held that where implementation of features of many MFPs constituted a major federal action, one EIS would be prepared to analyze the cumulative environmental impact. We used this approach for the grazing EISs required by a court judgment, and it worked, as far as NEPA compliance was concerned. However, livestock grazing is widespread and influences most public land decisions. As a result, since the grazing EIS process was so much better publicized and drew so much wider public attention than MFP preparation, it was, by default, assuming a major portion of the multiple use planning role.

In mid-1977, Director Frank Gregg decided that compliance with FLPMA required substantially upgrading the MFP process, and that BLM should coordinate with the Forest Service, which at that time, was revising its multiple-use planning process. We hoped to reestablish the resource allocation decision process in the multiple-use plan as required by FLPMA, break OEPR's hold on EIS filing authority, and substantially upgrade the planning system to meet the needs of the 1980s, all at one time by using the same basic planning components being developed by the Forest Service. The details would, of course, differ to accommodate BLM needs. BLM called its product the Resource Management Plan (RMP). The big gamble was whether RMP/EIS filing authority would be delegated to BLM. OEPR was strongly opposed. We won! In 1979 filing authority was delegated by Secretary Andrus thru regulations he approved which launched the Resource Management Planning process.

Public meetings conducted by the employees developing the plan are required during issue identification, development of planning criteria, and publication of both the draft and final RMP/EIS. Once the RMP is approved, BLM prepares more specific activity plans for specific programs (e.g., Allotment Management Plans, Habitat Management Plans, or others); the activities proposed in these plans must conform to the RMP. For actions that don't, the District Manager prepares a plan amendment, again with participation from the public.


Mineral policy in the 1970s was largely influenced by the Arab oil embargo. In 1973, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) imposed a four-fold increase in the price of oil, and in response to the Yom Kippur War, several countries placed an embargo on oil exports to the United States. This action, combined with an increased reliance on automobiles for personal transportation by the public, created the infamous gas lines of 1973. The nation's dependency on foreign oil had risen to 36 percent, with 10 percent coming from Arab countries.

Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Mineral Leasing Statistics 1971-1981
Gulf Coast West Coast Atlantic Coast Alaska
Acres (millions) Active
19711010 4.2770 .36
1972965 4.0170 .36
19731027 4.3369 .35
19741258 5.5969 .35
19751607 7.4168 .35
19761678 7.75124 .6693 .5376 .41
19771794 8.67121 .6493 .5376 .41
19781703 7.81108 .58136 .77163 .90
19791757 8.09148 .79175 1.00131 .73
19801688 7.70142 .76232 1.32113 .57
19811941 8.84273 1.55128 .68150 .79

by Edward J. Hoffmann
Manager, Alaska Outer Continental Shelf Office (1973-1978) - Retired

On a hot summer day in 1973 a cryptic message reached me in the Arizona State Office from Ed Hastey approving my reassignment to Anchorage as head of a newly established Alaska Outer Continental Shelf Office. After spending a decade in Alaska in the '50s and early '60s, the opportunity was most welcome.

The initial charge was to assemble a small multi-disciplinary team to begin assessing the probable environmental impacts of exploratory oil and gas drilling in federal waters off Alaska. The Arab oil embargo and the administration's ensuing Project Independence quickly changed the mission to a full-blown effort with responsibilities ranging from environmental assessment to actual leasing of offshore tracts for exploratory drilling.

This unique program required specialists with unique disciplines—oceanographers (chemical, physical, geologic, biologic), paralegals, petroleum engineers, economists, computer types, geographers. There were also some garden-variety skills—administrative types, natural resource specialists and the all important clerical positions.

The first Alaska Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) sale was conducted for tracts in the Northern Gulf of Alaska on April 13, 1976. Preparations for the sale surfaced major objections from state government and Native (Indian) groups. There was a good bit of give-and-take before the sale came to being—accommodations were made on both sides. About $1.75 billion was offered in bids, with accepted bids netting $571,900,000 to the Treasury. Disappointingly, no discoveries were made during exploratory drilling. The staff received a unit citation from the Secretary of the Interior for the excellent work done in bringing to reality the first sale in a frontier area.

The second and final sale of my tenure was in Lower Cook Inlet. It netted over $211 million in bonus bids to the Treasury. Again, no commercial discoveries resulted from exploratory drilling.

As my tenure began winding down, we were negotiating with the State of Alaska to hold a joint state-federal sale in the Beaufort Sea off Prudhoe Bay. These negotiations were complex, involving disputed ownership of the seabed. The Eskimos were greatly concerned that any further industrialization of their areas would adversely affect their subsistence way of life. Finally, an agreement was reached and the sale consummated well after my retirement in August 1978.

The OCS offices, while within BLM, were unique in that they were responsible to the director rather than a state director. Since the programs were highly visible, politically sensitive, and controversial, the Office of the Secretary took a more than casual interest. The OCS offices eventually were transferred to Minerals Management Service.

In retrospect, the 5 years I spent as Manager of the Alaska OCS office were the highlight of a varied career spanning over three decades. It was especially gratifying to have had the opportunity to gather a highly motivated crew from a wide variety of disciplines in an interesting and controversial program.

President Nixon reacted to the situation by announcing Project Independence on November 7, 1973. The project called for making the U.S. self-sufficient in energy by 1980. Development of federal mineral reserves were an important part of this equation. Nixon's policy was followed by succeeding presidents.

Mineral leasing increased dramatically in response to the embargo. Drilling and production were up all over the nation, in the East as well as the West. Mineral development was further spurred by Congressional tax cuts for the domestic petroleum industry. BLM began leasing Outer Continental Shelf lands off Alaska and the mid-Atlantic states in 1976. By 1980, the Bureau administered 113 leases for 570,000 offshore acres in Alaska and 232 leases covering 1.3 million acres off the Atlantic Coast.

Increase in

Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Mineral Leasing Statistics 1971-1981
Total Production
Natural Gas
(1,000 cu. ft.)
(million bbl)

The problem of speculation in oil and gas leasing soon reappeared. Private filing companies told the public they could strike it rich in the federal oil and gas "lottery" (the simultaneous oil and gas noncompetitive leasing program, or SIMO) for a small fee. While BLM was charging $10 for SIMO applications, filing companies charged up to $100, and, for the vast majority of noncompetitive lease holders, chances were quite good that they would not realize any profits from their risks.

A 1970 Bureau study found that federal coal was being leased at a fast pace, but that little production was occurring. Coal reserves were being tied up with few royalties coming into the U.S. Treasury. In response, Secretary Rogers C.B. Morton stopped BLM from issuing coal leases and prospecting permits in May 1971.


In February 1973, the Department announced BLM was developing a new coal policy for the nation. A year later, the Energy Mineral Allocation Recommendation System (EMARS) was announced. The policy called for BLM to determine the rate at which federal coal should enter the market, select sites where good quality coal (and good land rehabilitation) could be had, and only then determine a leasing schedule.

New Coal

EMARS was spelled out in BLM's draft programmatic EIS for coal. Both the EIS and EMARS were criticized in 1974 as being too general, and Interior withdrew the proposed policy. By 1975, the Department drafted and released the Energy Minerals Activity Recommendation System (EMARS II).

EMARS II emphasized market planning; it was designed to set up regulations and incentives that would, according to William Moffat of the Department's Office of Policy Analysis, "lead industry, acting in its own interest, to do what we think the nation needs." This plan called for leasing coal by competitive bid at no less than fair market value. The intent of the policy was to lease only those lands that needed to be leased; it was supposed to halt speculation by enforcing the diligent development provision of the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920.

The programmatic EIS issued with the release of EMARS II, however, was attacked by environmental groups as being of poor quality—so poor as to "preclude meaningful comments" according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). NRDC subsequently threatened to sue. It had recently won its challenge to BLM's grazing EIS, but Interior decided to proceed with EMARS II. NRDC sued the Department and won in 1977. The District of Columbia District Court ruled that BLM's EIS was inadequate and stipulated how this was to be corrected—largely through a new EIS that would incorporate additional comments from the public.

By this time several other things had happened. The Coal Leasing Amendment Act of 1976 set a federal royalty rate for coal at 12-1/2 percent on leases issued after mid-1976 (prior to this, rates were inconsistently set). It also abolished preference right leasing, which had been authorized under the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920 in cases "where prospecting or exploratory work is necessary to determine the existence or workability of coal deposits in any unclaimed, undeveloped area..."

Coal Leasing
Act of 1976

The Surface Mining and Reclamation Control Act of 1977 was passed to ensure rehabilitation of surface-mined lands—most federal coal lands were to be mined in this manner—and created the Office of Surface Mining. The National Energy Act of 1977 called for increased coal development, energy conservation, decontrol of natural gas pricing by 1985, and development of alternate energy sources, such as solar, geothermal, wind, and "mini-hydro" sources.

And finally, FLPMA had been enacted and President Carter was in the White House. Before the court's decision on the NRDC suit, Carter called for reform of the Federal coal leasing program, wanting coal mining to be compatible with other uses of the land. He also called for an investigation of current leases to determine if they were being diligently developed in an environmentally sound manner.

After the Department reviewed BLM's coal program, another policy review was mandated by the NRDC decision. In 1979, Interior issued a final environmental impact statement on BLM's coal program. As described by Frank Gregg, BLM's policy was to resume coal leasing by "limiting sales to foreseeable needs, providing strong voices for state and local interests, and enforcing stringent environmental protection." The policy also sought to keep consumer prices down. With this policy in mind, Interior projected a coal production shortfall starting in 1985. Plans were made for coal lease sales to be held in 1981 and 1982, but a new administration would handle the sales.

In 1970, President Nixon reopened the idea of leasing oil shale. A presidential task force recommended the government offer 20-year leases by competitive sealed bid at fixed royalty rates. Secretary Hickel backed off the idea, saying that it was premature to lease shale without more fully assessing the environmental consequences. The discovery of oil on Alaska's North Slope may have influenced him too.

Oil Shale

Western Senators were up in arms about this perceived about-face. In 1971, a prototype oil shale leasing program to develop extraction technology was announced, provided that environmental concerns could be resolved. BLM first asked the minerals industry to nominate tracts. In 1973, it issued a six-volume EIS on the program. By early 1974, four of the six tracts offered were leased by competitive bid; the "C-a" tract in Colorado provided the largest bonus bid yet received for a federal lease—$210 million—but it was never fully developed. Although oil prices were up at the time, the cost of oil shale retorting was still too high to make it economically feasible.

The General Mining Law of 1872 came under increasing criticism after the 1960s, but had not been repealed. In a letter to Wayne Aspinall in 1969, Stewart Udall said, "This outmoded law has become the major obstacle to the wise conservation and effective management of the natural resources of our public lands."


The Public Land Law Review Commission (PLLRC) took a middle road on this issue. It recognized the law had problems—like permitting people not really interested in developing minerals to obtain mining claims for other purposes—but they also knew the mining industry favored obtaining title to public lands.

PLLRC called for a new mining policy that incorporated features of the 1872 act and the current mineral leasing scheme. PLLRC suggested that only minerals be patented under the law. Surface use would be allowed only as needed for mining operations—but it could be disposed of at fair market value. A royalty system was advocated that would provide monies to the United States both before and after patenting.

This open pit copper mine originated with mining claims on federal land near Ajo, Arizona. (BLM)

The mining industry resisted any proposed changes to the 1872 act. FLPMA made the first changes to the act, providing for the recordation of mining claims on the public lands—allowing BLM managers to account for claims when making land use decisions. Proof of assessment work had to be filed with BLM annually to hold claims. FLPMA also allowed BLM to play a more active role in managing surface lands of claims by monitoring operations to prevent unnecessary environmental damage, and it required reclamation of mining sites.

In California, BLM devised a leasing scheme for a unique energy resource—wind. Ron Hofman, Associate State Director, arguing that wind was a resource when it blew across public lands, was successful in establishing a leasing program with royalties based on production. Eleven of 13 big leases still operate in the California Desert, bringing in about $2 million annually in revenues to the U.S. Treasury.


The Geothermal Steam Act of 1970 authorized BLM to issue leases for development and use of geothermal resources (primarily for the production of electricity) on federal lands. Final regulations and a final EIS for the leasing program were published in 1973. On January 22, 1974, BLM held its first competitive geothermal lease sale, offering 33 tracts in California; high bids totaling $6.3 million were received for 18 tracts.

By 1986, more than 300 leases had been issued on federal lands in California. An area known as the Geysers in northern California became the most productive geothermal field in the world, with about 40 percent of its total production coming from BLM public lands.

Wind energy turbines on public land at Tehachapi Pass, California Desert District. (John Skibimski)

Geothermal steam is used in these Pacific Gas & Electric plants to produce electricity in the Geysers area of BLM's Ukiah, California District. (BLM)


Alaska Native claims continued to dominate debate in Alaska in the early 1970s. Oil companies were eager to build the Alaska Pipeline, and the state pressed to continue its land selections. But before any of this could happen, Congress had to act on settling Native claims.

Congress held hearings on the issue starting in 1969 but no bills emerged. In 1970, Senator Henry Jackson submitted a bill that called for giving Alaska Natives some 10 million acres of land, $1 billion, and a share of oil revenues for a limited period of years. Senator Ted Stevens said "I think it is a fair bill. It gives you [the Natives] more control and self-determination than any such bill in history." The Senate passed the bill, apparently without amendment, by a vote of 76 to 8.

Late in 1970, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld former Secretary Udall's "land freeze." In the House of Representatives, the Subcommittee on Indian Affairs informally agreed to give Natives title to 40 million acres, but no report on that matter was provided.

In the next session of Congress—1971—three bills were introduced. One was the previous Jackson measure. Another, supported by Senator Ted Kennedy, called for Natives to receive title to 60 million acres, an initial payment of $500 million, perpetual sharing of minerals in lands claimed but to which title was not given, and establishment of regional corporations. The last bill, introduced by Wayne Aspinall in the House, gave 100,000 acres to Alaska Natives and made additional land available for subsistence use, but only on a permit basis.

The issue was hotly debated, but the pipeline forced compromise. Oil companies wanted to recover their costs by moving crude—they had paid $900 million in bonus bids to the state to lease lands on the North Slope in 1969 alone. As law professor Monroe E. Price pointed out, "There would have been no Native Claims Settlement Act of the present magnitude had it not been for the intense interest of the oil companies in its passage."

In April 1971, the Nixon administration put forth a proposal which included 40 million acres for natives, $500 million in compensation from the Treasury, and an additional $500 million from mineral royalties. This bill, "the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act," was presented by Nixon in a special message to Congress. After considerable debate, a conference committee measure was accepted by the House and Senate on December 14. Before signing the bill, however, Nixon asked the Alaska Federation of Natives to tell him if they approved of the act. By a vote of 511-56, they put their blessings on the bill. On December 18, the day the Natives approved, President Nixon signed the legislation.

The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971 (ANCSA) gave 40 million acres of land to natives and extinguished claims based on aboriginal rights to any other lands. ANCSA provided $962.5 million in compensation for claims not recognized ($462.5 million paid up front, the rest to be paid over time to Native corporations) and repealed the Native Allotment Act of 1906. ANCSA also established Native Villages to control surface resources and Regional Corporations to control the subsurface resources. Each Native was given 100 shares in Regional Corporations, which could not be sold until 1991. The first conveyance of land to a Native Corporation occurred on March 27, 1974.

by Curtis V. McVee
Alaska State Director-Retired

When I came to Alaska in 1967, I was told by somebody in D.C. that Alaska was not a good place for your career because the land was all tied up. The land protest by the Native groups in 1965 and the resulting Public Land Order (4582) in 1968 had frozen the land status.

For a number of years not much was happening. People in Alaska wanted to do things. Some could not acquire land for homesteads; public projects like highways and airports were at a standstill; and pressure was building from private corporations to lease lands for oil exploration and development.

Recognizing the problem, Congress passed the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) in 1971. While the intent of the law was valid—to convey lands to the Natives as quickly as possible—the law itself contained built-in controversy. Section 17(d)(2) of the act allowed for the withdrawal of 80 million acres for possible additions to national park, forest, wildlife refuge, and wild and scenic river systems. Native leaders objected to various easements being considered for reservation, due to the cultural significance of the lands for their people. Recreationists insisted more easements be reserved.

Needless to say, we were ill-equipped to handle the pending tasks. We were very poorly staffed and we were doing things manually—at what I call "one stage past the crowquill pen." Guidelines needed to be established to improve and speed up the conveyance process, yet protect the rights of all concerned. Studies were needed of Native populations and entitlements. New fact-finding processes, once developed, would require a great amount of field examination and time. Fortunately, the Bureau soon set up a coordination office, and we started to get more staff and budget.

(Carolyn Roth)

I remember once during this period, Assistant Secretary Harrison Loesch came here for a couple of meetings with Native groups. We hadn't yet decided how the act should be implemented, but we had drafted some proposed regulations. We are not prepared for the reaction we got. At our first meeting, about 150 to 200 people attended. When the proposal was presented, the Natives became angry because they had not been involved. They even threatened to leave the meeting!

When the meeting adjourned, we went upstairs with the Departmental representatives. At that point, I think they began to finally understand some of the problems involved with the act. We set up a task group to go to D.C. and work on the regulations as a team. That really helped get the Department's attention. They had thought of it as just another land law that had been developed by Congress. They soon became aware it was not just a question of economics and politics, but had roots back into the aboriginal cultures of these various Native groups. Once we got that understanding, things went better.

Now, 20 years later, we're still working on some of this in Alaska.

Thus, according to professor Price, "By legislative stroke, the Congress converted all Alaska Natives into members of the corporate world, receivers of annual reports, proxy statements, solicitations and balance sheets." With this act, work on the pipeline could begin.

BLM began withdrawing a corridor across public lands for the pipeline in 1971. An EIS was prepared and released in 1972, but was immediately contested by environmentalists. In 1973, the federal courts ruled that Interior could not grant the right-of-way width given by BLM. Congress, concerned with the energy crisis, overruled the court's ruling in November 1973 and declared the EIS sufficient—ending further debate. The vote was close, however: Vice President Spiro Agnew had to break a tie in the Senate.


Interior issued a permit to build the pipeline on January 23, 1974. Work began in late April that year. As many as 21,600 employees worked around the clock to build the pipeline, which consists of a 4-foot diameter pipe that is 800 miles long (422 miles above ground, the rest below). The pipeline was completed in 1977. Oil first entered the line on June 20, 1977, and reached Valdez on the southern Alaska coast on July 28, 1977.

Route of the Alaska Pipeline

by Arlan Kohl
Trans-Alaska Pipeline System Project Manager—Retired

Editor's Note: Arlan Kohl had a long association with the Trans-Alaska pipeline. In 1971 he joined the Washington Office's Alaska Pipeline staff to coordinate intra-agency and congressional activities. In 1973 he moved to Alaska and held various technical and professional positions related to pipeline construction and operation. When he retired from BLM in 1987 Arlan was the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System project manager, responsible for monitoring pipeline companies for compliance with Interior right-of-way stipulations.

The Trans-Alaska Pipeline System is a project of superlatives. It transports crude oil from the largest oil field in North America to the ice-free port of Valdez on the Gulf of Alaska. It was the first hot crude oil pipeline, pumping oil at a temperature of 145°F, built through areas containing permafrost. The first bridge across the Yukon River and the first road to the Arctic Ocean in the United States were constructed in support of the pipeline project. It was and still is the most expensive privately financed project in the world, costing $8 billion.

If not the first, the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System was one of the first major projects constructed after passage of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1970. The nine-volume Environmental Impact Statement primarily dealt with problems associated with a major oil spill and how the elevated sections of the pipeline would affect wildlife migration routes, particularly those of caribou herds. A challenge of the report's adequacy was filed in federal court, but congressional passage of the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline Authorization Act laid the issue to rest by directing the Secretary of the Interior to issue the permits necessary for construction.

Heading the pipeline effort was the Alaska Pipeline Office. The office monitored the construction activity of the pipeline to ensure minimal environmental disruption and to assure the construction quality of the pipeline. At the height of the project the Alaska Pipeline Office had 50 permanent employees.

Because of the world class nature of the project, it received national and international attention. The Alaska Pipeline Office, organized to monitor construction of the pipeline, played host to many delegations from around the world who came to observe construction. There were representatives from Canada, Germany, Norway, Great Britain, Japan, and the Soviet Union. As a result of the experience gained from the project, three BLM employees made a trip to the Soviet Union on technical exchange programs.

The pipeline project also received the attention of prominent political personalities and celebrities. During construction, President Gerald Ford visited Alaska and toured the project. There were many visits by members of Congress and every Secretary of the Interior since the project was proposed has visited the pipeline. Astronaut Wally Schirra was given a special briefing on the project in connection with a documentary film he was to narrate. Gladys Knight and the Pips spent a night at Tonsina Camp when their group got caught in a snowstorm along the pipeline route.

The Trans-Alaska Pipeline Project was an exciting project to work on. I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to have been associated with the project.

Alaska Pipeline (BLM)

The pipeline's cost has been placed at anywhere from $7.7 billion to $10 billion. The pipeline chalked up firsts in several areas—it is the first American line to be built across unstable permafrost and the nation's first hot oil pipeline (oil comes out of the ground at 145° F.). The US-USSR Environmental Agreement of 1972 allowed several BLM employees to learn first-hand about permafrost construction techniques from the Russians—which allowed the Department to develop environmental stipulations and quite probably saved the oil companies several billion dollars. Its 10 pumping stations deliver 2 million barrels of oil per day, which in 1982 supplied 10 percent of the nation's energy needs. At Valdez, there are 18 oil storage tanks that hold 500,000 barrels each.

BLM's Office of Special Projects in Alaska monitored the activities within the pipeline corridor, which crosses some 500 miles of BLM-administered lands. BLM was reimbursed for this work by pipeline owners.

Environmentalists realized early that efforts to block the pipeline would not meet with success. However, when ANCSA was being debated, they successfully negotiated Section 17 (d)(2), which directed the Secretary of Interior to withdraw up to 80 million acres of public land for study as new national parks, wildlife refuges, forests, and wild and scenic river systems. The Secretary was given 2 years to formulate the Department's recommendations; Congress was given 5 years to act on them. When withdrawn, the "d(2)" lands were protected from all forms of appropriation, including mining claims and mineral leasing (most withdrawals are usually open to the latter two actions).

d(2) Lands

On March 15, 1972, Interior Secretary Morton made preliminary set-asides, consisting of 83 million acres. Alaska quickly sued because some 40 million acres conflicted with lands they wanted and were entitled to under the Statehood Act. (When ANCSA passed, the state prepared a selection list of some 77 million acres and filed it with BLM on January 22, 1972.)

by Tom Noble
Cadastral Surveyor, Alaska State Office

BLM in Alaska has been a proving ground for new technology, mostly out of necessity. The state is just too large and diverse for land management and survey problems to be handled with traditional methods.

In the early 1970s, a new technology was being developed by Litton Industries. An Inertial Guidance System was being tested for aircraft navigation, and I think to the surprise of everyone, including Litton, was showing much higher accuracy than anticipated. BLM and Litton agreed to test and refine the inertial system to see if survey accuracy could be achieved. It could; the system was ideally suited for the type of surveying to be done in Alaska at that time—the skeletonized township boundaries of the tremendously large tracts of land needing to be transferred to state and Native ownership. During that first year, the advantages of the system over traditional methods were immediately apparent, and the techniques and procedures have been continually tested, developed, and refined.

My first experience with the Auto-SurveyorTM was in 1976, as a co-op student with the Oregon Institute of Technology on a summer adventure to Alaska. That first Auto-SurveyorTM cost over $750,000, including spare parts, training, and some computer software. It was nicknamed "Ralph," which was much easier to say than Litton Auto-SurveyorTM System. That summer Ralph helped us establish over 1,000 protracted survey monuments in approximately 150 townships. Ralph was doing so well, in fact, providing accurate geographic coordinates quickly and efficiently, that by 1977, BLM decided to purchase another Auto-SurveyorTM. "Rita" was purchased, at a cost of about $500,000. Combined, Ralph and Rita surveyed hundreds of thousands of acres and positioned thousands of survey monuments. On several occasions during the winter, when surveying in the field in Alaska is impractical, they were used in "Lower 48" resurveys. With still a tremendous amount of land yet to be surveyed, "Gena" was purchased in 1981 for about the same price as "Rita."

The immense number of lakes and other water bodies in Alaska led to the development of an additional Auto-SurveyorTM capability, known as meander mode. This capability was developed because of the growing problems concerning the segregation of the bodies of water from the land areas to be patented. Meander mode enables Ralph to collect data, latitude and longitude, from a moving vehicle. A helicopter is flown along the shoreline of a lake or river, and at the punch of a button, Ralph records the data. This data is later read by other computers, and then used to create survey plats and field notes.

The Auto-SurveyorTM is truly remarkable and it amazes me that it is nearly 15 years old. There is still a lot of life left in Ralph, Rita, and Gena, and there is still not a survey instrument that can do as much, as easily, as the Auto-SurveyorTM. There have been quite a few technological advancements in the last 10 to 15 years however, and the era of Ralph, sad to say, is probably nearing its end.

Interior and Alaska negotiated until September 1972, when a deal was reached that gave the State of Alaska prior right to some 1.9 million acres of d(2) lands. The state then withdrew selection of some 36 million acres of land, while another 41 million acres were validated.

Morton came up with a concrete proposal in December 1973 for the d(2) lands. He proposed 83 million acres under the "four systems," noting that the area within the national park system would be doubled by his plan. Morton's plan doubled the size of Mt. McKinley National Park and added three new parks in Alaska. It also added three national forests and numerous wildlife refuges, plus wild and scenic river areas.


By law, Congress had to respond to Morton's proposal by December 1978. President Ford backed the "park expansion plan" for Alaska but his effort came too late in his administration to accomplish it. President Carter and Secretary Andrus gave the proposal top priority on their agenda. In September 1977, they came up with a plan more ambitious than Morton's, calling for 91.8 million acres to be included as "National Interest" lands—41.7 million acres for 10 new parks, 45.1 million acres for wildlife refuges, and 2.5 million acres for wild and scenic rivers. New National Forests were eliminated from the proposal, but 2.5 million acres were added to existing forests.

Congress failed to act on Morton's proposals within ANCSA's deadline. With the lands scheduled to revert back to multiple use status, President Carter created 17 new monuments encompassing about 56 million acres on December 1, 1978. Defending the Executive Order, Secretary Cecil Andrus said "through the enactment of our proposals, we can be certain that the crown jewels of Alaska—its most spectacular natural environments, recreation areas, and wildlife habitats—will remain intact for the benefit of our nation's citizens." President Carter felt no other action would have more "lasting value."

Conservationists and land users debated this issue for the rest of the decade. When Carter lost his bid for reelection in 1980, conservationists compromised. The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) passed on December 2, 1980. The act extended the time for Alaska to select state lands from 25 years to 35 years; lands previously selected by the state and tentatively approved by the Department were confirmed.

Interest Lands
Conservation Act

For the nation as a whole, ANILCA revoked the 1978 executive withdrawals and set aside 104.1 million acres for national parks, wildlife refuges, recreation areas, and national conservation areas. The act also set aside the 1 million-acre White Mountain National Recreation Area (including two recreation trails and the Beaver Creek Wild River) and the 1.2 million-acre Steese National Conservation Area, which includes caribou habitat, the Birch Creek Wild River, and 125 miles of recreational trails.


From modest beginnings in the 1960s, BLM identified and designated millions of acres of the public lands in the lower 48 states as special management areas to recognize unique or threatened resources on the public lands. In 1965, Secretary Udall and Director Stoddard proposed that BLM designate 130 natural areas on BLM lands, totaling about 500,000 acres. These lands, categorized as ecological or geological areas, were set aside for research and educational use through BLM's classification process. Under Boyd Rasmussen, BLM began to designate recreation lands and other areas, such as National Natural Landmarks.

Special management areas were designated in two ways: by congressional or administrative action. Congress established national trails, wild and scenic rivers, and national conservation areas. BLM and the Department designated recreation areas, primitive areas, and natural areas (including outstanding natural areas and research natural areas), resource conservation areas, and other areas, such as the Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse Range. After FLPMA passed, BLM also designated areas of critical environmental concern (ACECs).

Under Director Burt Silcock, BLM began to set aside major acreages of public lands. About 27,000 acres of land in the Organ Mountains in southern New Mexico were dedicated in 1971 as a recreation area. New Mexico State University had previously been granted the use of 2,000 acres in the area for educational purposes. In Montana, Humbug Spires, Bear Trap Canyon, and the Centennial Mountains were designated as primitive areas. Bear Trap Canyon was subsequently designated as BLM's first wilderness area in 1983 as part of the Lee Metcalf wilderness.

For many years, BLM's Boise District recognized that the canyon country along the Snake River provided a unique and valuable nesting area for birds of prey. District Manager Ed Booker "charted a course through the Bureau's planning process to preserve the area," according to Silcock. In 1971, Secretary Rogers C.B. Morton withdrew 26,000 acres of land along the river for management as a natural area. The area was renamed the Snake River Birds of Prey Area by Secretary Cecil Andrus, who enlarged the total area to 482,640 acres in 1980.

Snake River
Birds of Prey
Natural Area

The King Range National Conservation Area, containing 54,000 acres of public lands along California's northern coast, was established by Congress in 1970 as the nation's first conservation area. Congress required BLM to develop a management plan for the area before it was officially designated. BLM completed an EIS and adopted regulations for the area in 1974, when it was officially set aside.

King Range

The King Range Act of 1970 contained provisions for land acquisition and cash payments to equalize values of lands exchanged with private owners and the State of California. It established a program of multiple use and sustained yield management for the area—provisions that would be seen again in FLPMA. Because private and state lands were intermixed with public lands, BLM set up seven management zones in the area to designate primary uses (three were for recreational uses, two for residential purposes, one for forest management, and one for wildlife habitat).

by Vi ille and Ken McGinty
Phoenix Training Center

As the Bureau of Land Management's technical training facility, the Phoenix Training Center had its origin in 1969 as the Lands and Minerals (L&M) Training School, under the administration of the Phoenix District. The first Manager was Tom Owen. The I & M School offered two 6-week courses each year for beginning lands and minerals specialists. Training in lands and minerals was especially needed because no training existed for realty specialists, and training in the private sector did not prepare minerals specialists for Bureau work. The school was located in the Phoenix District because it had abundant lands cases to be worked and Arizona's mild year-round climate would allow trainees to conduct field work during the spring and fall semesters.

By 1972 the I & M School had a new Manager, Paul Rigtrup. During his tenure, several lands and minerals short courses were added to the curriculum; an administrative law course was offered along with the Bureau's first training for area managers. In addition, the Pipelines and Electric Systems short courses were developed and conducted every 2 years in cooperation with the industries' respective institutes. By October 1979, the I & M School was separated from the Phoenix District, placed under the leadership of the BLM Arizona State Director, and became the Phoenix Training Center. At that time, the Training Center had a permanent staff of 10 and a 14-course curriculum and had already conducted 2 semesters of the new long-term beginning professional course in range management. In 1981, long-term training in wildlife habitat management was added to the curriculum, and in 1983 training for planners was introduced. Several other forces shaped the Training Center's evolution. The merger of BLM and the Minerals Management Service produced a need for specialized minerals training. The minerals curriculum increased from 4 courses in 1982 to 22 classroom courses and 4 self-study courses in 1988. Other major changes resulted from an evaluation of the Training Center and a decision to reorganize it.

With the trend of budget reductions and less travel, the Phoenix Training Center re-examined formal classroom training and began to seek alternative training methods. In 1984, Dr. Larry Hamilton became the Manager, responsible for implementing the Training Center's reorganization. A division was created to design and deliver training materials, including decentralized training packages and video programs. Education, computer, audiovisual, and visual information specialists were added to the staff. New program areas and responsibilities were added: career development; soil, water, and air; and hazardous materials management.

Two of the Training Center's attributes make it especially effective in serving the Bureau. First is the use of visiting instructors instead of a permanent teaching staff. Such instructors combine subject matter expertise with field experience to best meet the training needs of field employees. Second is that the Training Center was designed to meet the needs of line management and is responsible to the Arizona State Director as the representative of the Bureau Management Team. The Training Center model, proven effective over the years, will carry the Training Center into ensuring the best multiple management training for Bureau employees.

California Desert National Conservation Area

The Classification and Multiple Use Act of 1964 called for an inventory of BLM lands in the California Desert to determine what areas should be retained in federal ownership. BLM's challenge on the California Desert was to identify land uses and types of management required in an area receiving increasing use by the public. Almost all of BLM's 12.5 million acres (half of the desert's total area) were classified for retention and multiple use management.


In 1971, Secretary Morton dedicated 19 areas comprising 2.7 million acres in the California Desert as "National Recreation Lands." BLM identified these areas through the CMU Act, its own planning system, and extensive public involvement. BLM estimated that public lands in the California Desert supported more than 7 million visitor-use days annually; after the recreation areas were formally designated, this figure doubled.

The California Desert Conservation Area was established by FLPMA in 1976, with a draft management plan and final EIS issued for comment and review by the public in September 1980. Twelve public meetings were held in the area, and BLM received more than 40,000 written comments from across the country (with its analysis audited by the California League of Women Voters to assure impartiality and fairness to all users). The plan allocated desert land into geographic areas according to their primary uses. Class "C" (Controlled Use) areas totalled 2.1 million acres, or 17.3 percent of the total area. Most of these lands (45 sites totaling 2 million acres) were designated areas of critical environmental concern and proposed for inclusion to the national wilderness system. Class "L" lands (Limited Use) totaled 5.9 million acres (48.5 percent of the total); only low-intensity multiple land uses would be allowed, in order to protect resource values.

Class "M" lands (Moderate Use) struck a balance between use and preservation, allowing a variety of uses on 3.3 million acres. Class "I" (Intensive Use) lands allowed concentrated uses on 500,000 acres of lands by interests as diverse as off-road vehicle (ORV) enthusiasts or hardrock miners. The plan designated most of this acreage as ORV areas, including dry lake beds and sand dune systems.

Secretary Rogers C. B. Morton rode to the dedication of California Desert National Recreation Lands with dune buggy driver Jerry Van Warmer. (BLM)

The final plan was approved in December 1980. Public involvement helped BLM resolve a number of thorny issues; with the public's approval, BLM expedited the removal of 10,000 burros from critical desert bighorn sheep habitats and desert tortoise areas. In addition, BLM exchanged 5,600 acres of lands west of Blythe, California, for 480 acres of redwood forests owned by the San Diego Gas and Electric Company in the northern part of the state, plus 1,580 acres of land for addition to the Desert Tortoise Natural Area.


As early as 1968, California State Director J. Russell Penny proposed that a ranger force be established on the California Desert to supervise and control the desert's fast-growing recreational uses. About 95 percent of the desert is within 3 miles of a road, and more than 12 million potential visitors live within 100 miles of the desert.


BLM hired its first desert ranger in the Riverside District in June 1972. During the next year, Riverside District Manager Del Vail hired six additional rangers, and in 1974, 21 more. Because rangers didn't have law enforcement authorities, their duties were originally to oversee off-road vehicle use and report any violations of the law to state or local law enforcement officials. Rangers also gathered data on wildlife populations and habitats, archaeological sites, and other resources, and provided interpretive information to the public.

Providing information and helping visitors understand the desert's fragile resources takes up much of a BLM ranger's time. (BLM)

In November 1973, President Nixon issued an Executive Order calling on BLM to develop an "Interim Critical Management Program" for recreational vehicle use on BLM desert lands, which BLM completed in 1974. However, desert rangers were not granted their own enforcement authority until FLPMA was passed in 1976. By this time, their numbers had doubled and they were being hired outside California. But after receiving law enforcement authority, Steve Smith of the California State Office said that "in most cases, the rangers were able to substitute persuasion and diplomacy to avoid using their powers of arrest."

BLM's first authority for law enforcement was provided by the Wild and Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act in 1971; the Bureau hired its first special agent under the act in 1974. FLPMA gave BLM its first general authority covering all public lands. The Bureau signed contracts and entered into cooperative agreements with state and local agencies to enforce state and local ordinances. Special agents (also known as criminal investigators) probed violations of the Wild Horse and Burro Act, the Archaeological Resources Protection Act, and the Public Rangelands Improvement Act.


BLM estimated that 85 percent of its law enforcement work consisted of crimes against property or wild horses and burros. In 1979, the Federal Magistrate Act gave desert rangers authority to issue violation notices for misdemeanors.

by Frank Gregg

Frank Gregg
Frank Gregg (Jennifer Reese)

Editor's Note: Frank Gregg, a native of Colorado, began a long career in natural resources in 1951 with the State's Game and Fish Department. He served as executive director of the Izaak Walton League, staff assistant to Secretary Udall, and vice president of the Conservation Foundation, and was chairman of the New England River Basins Commission before becoming Director of BLM in February 1978. He is now a professor at the University of Arizona. This sidebar and his article on FLPMA were excerpted from a longer paper, Implementing FLPMA: Fashioning Management Systems in an Era of Political Volatility, in press.

I have followed BLM since the 1950s, first stimulated by livestock-wildlife conflicts and proposals for federal land disposal, and continued as a Secretarial staff assistant and conservation lobbyist in Washington through Chuck Stoddard's and Boyd Rasmussen's tenure. I was determined to help the Bureau build on FLPMA to establish a stable, professional public land management program genuinely responsive to the diverse range of demands on public land resources. I saw the land use planning process mandated by FLPMA as a way of assuring that all points of view were brought to bear on land use decisions in the field, and to enhance the capacity of the Washington Office to influence policy decisions of the Department, OMB, and the Congress affecting public lands.

The delay in my installation as Director was particularly frustrating because Secretary Andrus and Assistant Secretary Martin moved quickly with policy and program changes. The Bureau's career leaders had looked forward to having a strong hand in early implementation of FLPMA; instead it often found itself responding to individual initiatives from Secretarial offices, formulated outside the multiple-use context the Bureau preferred. As a signal to public land user groups, I held a series of well-publicized meetings in several western states in which local, regional, and national issues were discussed with audiences representing the full range of interest groups. The objective was simple: to let all hands know they could expect even-handed responses on wilderness, grazing administration, coal leasing, and other controversies. The strategy worked: even at the height of Sagebrush Rebellion oratory, communications with public land users and their political allies were easy and open.

At headquarters, BLM was reorganized and partially restaffed to provide a focal point for both renewable and nonrenewable resources, and to sharpen policy analysis and advocacy skills essential in a Washington office. Winning a few early battles (notably delegating approval of land use plans and related EISs to State Directors) helped restore the Bureau's role in Departmental policy councils. State Directors were made key players in Bureau policy deliberations through carefully planned and staffed meetings on program policy issues.

Progress in major programs was substantial. A new coal leasing program and EIS were formulated; leasing was resumed in 1980 without legal challenge. A "principled" (my word) approach to the westwide wilderness review specified in FLPMA was scrupulously objective in initial stages, to avoid demand for repeated reviews. Wildlife programs were sharply strengthened, a priority dating back to my early years in Colorado.

A coalition of user groups helped enact the Public Rangelands Improvement Act of 1978 around a common interest in increased funding for improving rangeland condition, and came close to agreement on processes for making decisions about livestock grazing use in response to court-ordered grazing EISs. A Special Projects Office helped meet urgent schedules for siting energy facilities. OCS leasing was expanded in new frontier areas with careful concern for environmental and social impacts. The California Desert Plan was completed with the help of a strong citizens' advisory committee, and withstood early challenges from a new administration. A network of regulations for implementing FLPMA emerged. The first-ever regulations on surface effects of hardrock mining took effect.

BLM's progress toward establishing itself as a strong, stable institution of career natural resource professionals was mixed. While the policy and budget priorities of the Carter Administration were supportive and congressional leadership was exemplary, images and perceptions of the Bureau were as often diminished as enhanced by the administration and diminished further by the vehemence of attacks in the 1980 campaign and immediately thereafter by supporters and officials of the new administration.

President Carter's zeal to reorganize, including a proposal to convert Interior into a Department of Natural Resources incorporating the Forest Service, was the root of serious damage to BLM. White House reorganization strategists sought to win FS support by downgrading BLM's competence and integrity, and promising to consolidate the two land systems under FS leadership. Even the Secretary occasionally joined in this forlorn tactic.

BLM and other federal agencies were also pawns in a federal-state water controversy. Field offices were accused (inaccurately) by some western water leaders of planning to claim vast quantities in the process of filing under state law for water rights for land management. Casual examination would have shown the amounts claimed to be modest indeed. But the administration's public response took the form of promising to protect western water interests from the agencies, instead of pointing to the record.

The Carter/Andrus record shows increasing support for BLM as time went on. When it became obvious that the reorganization would fail, Andrus helped secure support for a strengthened BLM in budget and manpower allocations. Andrus came, in his last months, to assert a commitment to BLM as the "Best Land Manager" among federal agencies. In controversial program areas, such as coal leasing, wilderness review, and livestock grazing, his support was unwavering. In his last appearance before Department employees, Andrus was moved to tears when he came to comment on his administration's work with BLM. But the opportunity to fully capitalize on his support was lost in the change of administration in 1981.

BLM entered the second post-FLPMA administration with modest increases in staff and appropriations, stronger support among western governors, the environmental community and key leaders in the House, a solid start toward consolidation of basic management systems, remarkable progress in specific program areas—and the dubious distinction of serving again as a symbol of need for dramatic policy change by a new administration.


BLM's watershed program grew to include additional areas of responsibility, including air resource management, in the 1970s. Several acts affected the program, but their effects on land management activities were not immediately apparent until litigation and court decisions forced the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to expand the acts' authorities to all areas of the United States.

The Clean Air Act of 1970 required EPA to establish national primary and secondary air quality standards, including standards for new pollution and hazardous substance sources. While the initial focus of this act centered on automobiles and point-source pollution, many states adopted regulations controlling open burning on federal public lands.

Clean Air Act
of 1970

Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) regulations were developed under the act following litigation from the Sierra Club in 1975. Under these regulations, EPA established three classes of clean air regions for the nation:

Class I — pristine areas where no deterioration was allowed;

Class II — areas permitted to undergo moderate changes; and

Class III — areas where development was allowed, up to the secondary national standards given in the act.


The Secretary of the Interior was given the responsibility to designate areas for management as Class I areas. Amendments to the act in 1977 reaffirmed the PSD concept and strengthened its provisions. All national parks, monuments, and wilderness areas were designated Class I areas, with other public land areas designated Class II; states or the Department, however, could reclassify any Class II areas as Class I areas.

The Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA) focused on industrial pollution in urban areas and on oil spills. Section 208 of the act, however, covered nonpoint pollution sources and required states to develop areawide waste management plans. The act also created the Colorado River Basin Salinity Control Forum, representing seven basin states, to develop numeric criteria for salinity allowed in the Colorado River—much of which originated on public lands. In 1974, the Colorado River Basin Salinity Control Act authorized construction of four salinity control units in the basin and required planning reports be completed in 12 other units.

Federal Water
Control Act

Under FWPCA, EPA proposed that forestry and agricultural activities be designated as point sources, but withdrew the idea in 1972. NRDC successfully sued EPA on this issue in 1975, forcing EPA to develop new regulations. Published in 1976, the regulations addressed water pollution from forest and range management activities.

The Clean Water Act of 1977 amended Section 208 of FWPCA to mandate statewide planning and authorized cost-sharing programs with rural landowners to control nonpoint sources through their Soil Conservation Districts. The act also exempted road building activities in forests from its provisions only if "best management practices" developed by BLM and the Forest Service were followed.

Clean Water

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 provided funds to state and local governments to "provide the demonstration, construction, and application of solid waste management and resource recovery systems which preserve and enhance the quality of air, water and land resources." One of the act's provisions called for establishing a national system of disposal sites for hazardous wastes, some of which occurred on BLM lands (e.g., the Waste Isolation Pilot Project in southeast New Mexico, which stores government-produced radioactive wastes).

and Recovery
Act of 1976

BLM's wildlife program continued to grow in the 1970s, reflecting the rise in public concern for endangered species and habitat issues for all species. The number of wildlife biologists in the Bureau grew to 360 by 1980, with a program budget of $16 million. In addition to NEPA and FLPMA, three acts affected the Bureau's wildlife program.

The Sikes Act of 1974 promoted federal/state cooperation in managing wildlife habitats on both BLM and Forest Service lands. It required BLM to work with state wildlife agencies to plan the development and maintenance of wildlife habitats, the act's primary tool being the Habitat Management Plan (HMP).

Sikes Act of

BLM completed its first HMP in 1976 in the Arizona Strip District. By 1980, BLM signed cooperative agreements with 15 state governments and developed 180 HMPs covering 26 million acres of public lands and 1,000 miles of streams crossing BLM lands. Priority was given to species requiring special attention, such as the desert bighorn sheep (whose numbers have not recovered in its original range, unlike those of elk, deer, and antelope) and endangered species.

The Endangered Species Act of 1973 provided for the federal listing of wildlife threatened with extinction and for the designation of critical habitat by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). The act required BLM to protect endangered species and their habitats, and to consult with FWS on activities planned for critical habitats. In addition, the act provided for closer working relationships between the agencies in developing recovery plans for threatened or endangered species.

Species Act of

The Bald Eagle Protection Act of 1972 prohibited the poisoning of bald or golden eagles, whether intentional or unintentional—causing significant changes in the FWS Animal Damage Control program (now in the Department of Agriculture) and in the activities of livestock operators on public lands. In January 1977, the FWS published guidelines forbidding activities resulting in disturbance to the birds.


The Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971 gave legal status to horses and burros on the public lands and required BLM to institute programs to protect and manage them. This act was one of the first pieces of legislation dealing with particular species and their habitats, specifying techniques that could—and couldn't—be used their management. The act brought wild horses and burros into BLM's multiple use planning process: the Bureau began to allot forage to horses and burros in addition to livestock and wildlife. If too many horses or burros occurred in an area, plans were written to address how and when they would be removed. Environmental assessments were prepared for public review and comment—a far cry from the discretion allowed managers in the 1950s and early 1960s.

Burros in California desert (BLM)

The act prohibited all sales or commercial trade in the animals and made BLM responsible for its enforcement. The Bureau hired its first special agents under the act in 1974. Horses and burro numbers could be controlled, however, by moving excess animals to other areas (where they existed prior to the act), by humane destruction, or by "adoption" to private citizens. The first option was untenable because horse and burro numbers were increasing throughout their range. The second, BLM correctly surmised, would never be approved on a large scale by the public.

BLM's only viable alternative was adoption; its first wild horse adoption took place in Montana in 1973. Because early efforts proved successful and were received with widespread public support, the Bureau implemented a nationwide Adopt-A-Horse program in 1976. By 1980, the public had adopted more than 20,000 horses and 2,000 burros through the program.

Wild horses in Sand Springs roundup, Vale, Oregon (BLM)

The protection afforded horses and burros under the act allowed for rapid increases in their population throughout the West. By 1980, BLM estimated that wild horse numbers exceeded 52,000, and burros 12,000, on the public lands, with some herds growing by 15 to 20 percent each year.

BLM found itself facing a whole new array of problems. In January 1976, animal unit months for livestock grazing were reduced in the Burns District (Oregon) in response to reductions in forage caused by wild horses in the area. A cattleman affected by this reduction filed a claim for damages with the Interior Department but was not successful. New Mexico challenged the act's constitutionality, claiming it violated the state's right to manage wildlife within its borders. Initially found unconstitutional, the act was later upheld by the Supreme Court, which decided the federal government had authority to manage horses—and other wildlife species—on the public lands.


Until 1971, most land-managing agencies thought that the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (NHPA) applied only to nonfederal cultural resources affected by federally aided construction such a highways, dams, and urban renewal projects. By issuing Executive Order 11593, President Nixon informed federal land-managing agencies that they too were obliged to protect cultural resources. Executive Order 11593 required agencies to inventory and evaluate all significant cultural resources under their jurisdiction within 2 years—an impossible task for an agency managing 500 million acres of land—and to protect them from inadvertent harm. Expanding its ability to assist State Offices, the BLM Service Center added a historian and a second archaeologist to its staff.

Archaeological site, Granary with two types periods of construction in Moab District, Utah. (William T. Rolen, Jr.)

Detailed NHPA regulations were published by the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation in 1974. In response, BLM State Offices and a few Districts were staffed with cultural resource specialists by the end of fiscal year 1974; most other Districts were staffed in 1975, and most Resource Areas by 1977. Alden Sievers of the Washington Office's recreation staff began laying the foundations for a cultural resources program in 1974. Rick Hanks, archaeologist for the California Desert planning staff, served as program leader from 1976 to 1980, establishing the planning-based structure that continues to shape the program.

Cultural specialists in the field were primarily responsible for inventories needed for land use plans or for proposed projects such as right-of-way applications, range improvements, mineral development, and other actions. Because locations were chosen for resource or engineering reasons, these new specialists visited places where archaeologists had never thought about going, "finding an unanticipated wealth of archaeological and historic resources of kinds never before described or interpreted," according to John Douglas, current program leader in the Washington Office.

Pictograph used as a target by irresponsible public, Moab, Utah. (William T. Rolen, Jr.)

It soon became evident that BLM lands held an abundance of cultural resources, estimated in 1977 at 500,000 properties. Rapidly accumulating survey data bumped that estimate upward—to as many as 3 to million—according to Douglas, who stated that "acre for acre, no other agency approaches the number, variety, and importance of BLM's cultural resources."

FLPMA reemphasized Executive Order 11593's message, naming cultural resources among the Bureau's multiple use responsibilities and focusing on the role of inventory in planning and management. The 1970s closed with the passage of another important statute, the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 (ARPA). Its predecessor, the Antiquities Act of 1906, had been disabled as a criminal statute in most of the West by a 1974 ruling in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. ARPA resolved the Court issue, boosting the Antiquities Act's misdemeanor offenses to felonies; it also prohibited trafficking and possession in addition to unauthorized excavation and removal, to address dealers and collectors as well as diggers.

By the end of the decade, BLM had the authority and much of the capability needed to protect its huge reserve of cultural resources from conflicts generated by legitimate land use activities on the one hand, and from illegal depredation on the other. Both of those concerns, however, were almost purely reactive. What was lacking, according to Douglas, was the ability to get out ahead of Section 106 compliance—and artifact hunters—to determine, for the resources' own sake, how they should be managed over the long term. This became the program's main task in the 1980s.


Recreation on the public lands rose steadily during the 1970s, approaching 50 million visitor-use days each year. By 1972, the Bureau hired an additional 30 outdoor recreation planners on the ground so that virtually all District Offices were staffed with these positions.

By the mid-1970s, BLM was maintaining more than 400 developed recreation sites on the public lands, with an annual budget averaging $5 million for recreation management, $3 million for site maintenance, and $1 million for recreation construction. For America's Bicentennial in 1976, BLM built interpretive facilities along the Oregon, Pony Express, and Dominquez-Escalante Trails. In 1978, the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act was amended by Congress to authorize an increase in its base funds to $900 million annually.

The start of a hare and hound race over approximately a 150 mile course, Little Rock Area, California. (BLM)


Section 603 of FLPMA set up BLM's wilderness review process. Within 15 years the Secretary was to review roadless areas or "islands" of 5,000 acres or more on the public lands identified during a prescribed inventory process (Section 201) as having wilderness characteristics described in the Wilderness Act of 1964 and to "report to the President his recommendation as to the suitability or nonsuitability of each such area or island for preservation as wilderness."

BLM established a review process consisting of three phases: inventory, study, and reporting to Congress. During the inventory phase, BLM identified wilderness study areas (WSAs) after asking for public participation and review of its work. The inventory, completed in November 1980 in the lower 48 states, identified more than 24 million acres of public lands as WSAs and eliminated approximately 150 million acres from further consideration.

Outdoor recreation planners were given the primary task of inventorying and identifying wilderness study areas on the public lands. Each WSA was then studied—or is now being studied—by all Bureau programs and the public, through BLM's planning system, to consider all values, resources, and uses within the area. The findings of these studies have determined or will determine whether the areas should be recommended for designation as wilderness. Reports on all WSAs must reach the President no later than October 1991 and Congress by October 1993. Mineral surveys will be conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey and Bureau of Mines for areas recommended as suitable.


The Federal Advisory Committee Act of 1972 directed the Executive Branch to make more effective use of its boards, setting up criteria for the creation, supervision, and operation of advisory boards. Section 14 of the act required that BLM's boards be specifically renewed by the Secretary of the Interior.

In response to this act, BLM realigned membership on the National Advisory Board Council; livestock members were reduced from 20 to 10 and wildlife interests from 10 to 6. Representatives of other groups increased—three for outdoor recreation, and one each for forestry, environmental quality, mining, county and state governments, leasable minerals, and public utilities.

BLM retained its tri-level advisory board system (national, state and district). State and O&C multiple use advisory boards were continued, while District grazing advisory boards were supplemented with multiple use advisory boards at the field level. Grazing advisory boards were extended by FLPMA for 10 years to advise Districts on AMPs and range improvement funds.

Anyone who doubts the significance of NEPA's impacts on BLM should examine the Bureau's range program in the 1970s. Range conditions on public land were attracting criticism from environmental groups and national attention from the news media. Readers Digest published an article on overgrazing, "Nibbling Away at the West," in 1971 and National Geographic carried a story on the plight of bighorn sheep in Challis, Idaho in 1973.

BLM was well aware of its requirements under NEPA to examine the impacts of significant actions on the environment, including those of its range program. By 1972, the Bureau decided to examine national impacts and policies in a programmatic statement. Probably another reason for choosing this approach was that BLM simply didn't have enough range employees or forage inventory data collected to prepare site-specific EISs.

by Frank Gregg

With the passage of FLPMA in 1976, BLM had reason to hope for a period of stability, a window of opportunity to concentrate on refinement of multiple use management systems for the public lands. It didn't work out that way. On the contrary, the years immediately after FLPMA were arguably among the most politically volatile in public land history.

FLPMA itself precipitated controversy. The Act gave environmental and recreation interests a position of legal equality with the historically dominant commodity uses of mining, grazing, oil and gas, timber. Decisions about the use of specific public land areas were to be based on land use plans and environmental impact statements prepared with public participation. All roadless areas were to be reviewed for potential designation and protection as wilderness. Concerns of resource development interests were heightened by the candid commitment of the Carter Administration to environmental goals, and by the public environmental records of Secretary of the Interior Cecil Andrus, Assistant Secretary Guy Martin, and me.

Beyond these changes, commodity programs Bureauwide were being examined under the glare of EISs in response to NEPA lawsuits brought by environmental organizations. Livestock grazers were faced with examination of grazing effects on public lands through a series of 144 site-specific EISs, Coal leasing had been enjoined under a NEPA suit in the early seventies. The Carter Administration rejected a proposed Nixon/Ford leasing program and set out to develop its own, with enthusiastic commitments to use of the new Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act as well as the land use planning and public participation requirements of FLPMA. Outer Continental Shelf oil and gas development was facing new rules under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act Amendments of 1977, inspired largely by environmental concerns. Timber harvest in the "O&C" lands was being addressed in yet another series of EISs.

The stage was set for a concerted reaction by resource development interests and their political supporters. Controversies escalated in specific programs. Eventually, three Nevada BLM livestock permittees who were also state legislators developed a legal and political argument that the federal lands properly belong to the western states as a matter of constitutional law. While originally launched to stimulate political opposition to livestock grazing reductions, the proposal struck a responsive chord among sectors of western society who opposed the environmental laws and policies of the era (and the intrusive presence of the federal government generally). The proposal became a movement, and soon attracted national attention as the Sagebrush Rebellion.

The immediate post-FLPMA years were therefore anything but a period of steady movement toward a stable system for managing the public lands. Instead, BLM faced the combined challenges of formal implementation of FLPMA, meeting the deadlines for preparation of EISs covering major programs such as coal leasing and livestock grazing, and carrying on the day-to-day tasks of working with public land users and resources.

The Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) sued BLM over its choice in 1973, asserting that the act of issuing grazing permits and licenses locally constituted significant federal actions and therefore required locally prepared EISs to determine potential impacts. The courts agreed in October 1973 and directed the Interior Department and NRDC to reach agreement on what level EISs would be produced in the field.


Interior Department solicitors reached an agreement with NRDC whereby BLM would prepare 212 statements in the field, covering 150 million acres of public lands over the following 15 years (by 1988). Challis, Idaho was selected as BLM's first site-specific EIS, because of its complex mix of resources and land uses. A final EIS was completed for the area and filed with the Council on Environmental Quality in 1976.

Along with its environmental impact statements, BLM prepared Allotment Management Plans (AMPs) in cooperation with individual ranchers. AMPs proposed plans of action for specific areas and specified seasons of use, livestock numbers, and range improvements. The EISs and AMPs considered the needs of wildlife, wild horses and burros, plus the impacts of other land uses (e.g., ORV and mining uses), furthering the Bureau's examination of resources in a multiple-use context. Management alternatives in the statements consisted of anything from implementing AMPs (which often required overall reductions in livestock numbers or grazing deferments), to maintaining status quo, to eliminating grazing. Most EISs, however, adopted the AMP alternatives proposed.


In the late 1970s, this arrangement broke down. NRDC criticized BLM's policy of preparing AMPs at the same time EISs were written, arguing that current forage resources needed to be inventoried beforehand. Many livestock operators complained that AMPs were being developed without considering the needs of operators to effectively manage livestock. In 1978, the Public Rangeland Improvement Act specified that AMPs be developed "in careful and considered consultation, cooperation and coordination" with the lessees, permittees, and landowners involved, along with district and state grazing advisory boards. BLM began to collect extensive forage inventories before writing grazing EISs, with AMPs and other activity plans being written after the overall plan was adopted.

In the 1970s, increases in grazing fees were phased in to meet the base fee of $1.23 per AUM established by the BLM and Forest Service interagency study of 1968. Grazing fees on BLM lands in 1971 were 64 cents per AUM. In 1972 increases in the fee were limited to 3 percent in response to President Nixon's Economic Stabilization Program. This fee rose to $1.00 in 1974 and $1.51 in 1976, the result of delayed annual increments plus inflation.


FLPMA also readjusted the distribution of grazing fee funds, with 50 percent going towards range improvements (at least half of which had to be spent in the district where it was collected). Congress showed an interesting reaction to NRDC's suit on BLM's grazing EIS by exempting range improvement funds from NEPA requirements.

BLM Grazing Fees
YearsAnimal Unit Month Fee

Grazing revenues 1971-1980

One of the last-minute compromises made to get FLPMA passed was a requirement for BLM and the Forest Service to undertake another study of grazing fees. In 1978, Congress legislatively set a new grazing fee formula in the Public Rangelands Improvement Act (PRIA), basing it on a combination of fair market value, beef prices, and production costs. Under this formula, grazing fees rose to $2.36 per AUM by 1980. PRIA authorized the expenditure of $365 million on rangeland improvements over a 20-year period (in addition to the 50 percent of grazing fee funds targeted for range improvements), but funds were never appropriated.


BLM prepared a programmatic environmental impact statement for its forestry program in 1975. Within a year, NRDC challenged the adequacy of BLM's statement. Settlement of the lawsuit required the Bureau to prepare environmental impact statements on each of 13 Sustained Yield Units in western Oregon, plus one each in northern California and northern Idaho. Timber management plans were updated simultaneously with the EISs starting in 1978, with the process completed in 1983.


The use of pesticides and herbicides on forested lands became a major issue for BLM in the 1970s. In June 1970, Secretary Hickel established a policy permanently banning the use of 16 pesticides (including DDT and 2,4,5-T) on any lands managed by the Department. Another group of pesticides were placed on a "Restricted List," to be used "only when nonchemical techniques have been considered and found inadequate, and when use can be limited to small-scale applications.

Herbicides and

In 1976, a federal court in Oregon ruled that the Forest Service must prepare an EIS analyzing its vegetation management practices with herbicides. Because the Bureau's program was similar, BLM also stopped using herbicides in western Oregon until it completed an EIS in 1979. On March 15, 1979, Secretary Andrus decided to continue the use of herbicides in Oregon. In a memo implementing BLM's herbicide program, however, Director Frank Gregg stated "ongoing efforts to learn more about nonchemical methods of vegetation management...should be continued and, I believe, stepped up so that we will become increasingly confident and knowledgeable in their usefulness."

Both O&C and public domain forest management emerged in the 1970s as multidisciplinary programs involving coordination with recreation, wildlife, grazing, watershed, and cultural resource programs. BLM received additional funding for inventories of commercial forest resources outside the O&C lands. The BLM Service Center in Denver developed a computer model for calculating allowable cuts within sustainable harvest levels in all public domain forestry districts with commercial timber, and each district was staffed with at least one forester.


Timber revenues 1971-1980

While recognizing that 20 million acres of forested lands were incapable of producing commercial sawtimber, BLM estimated that they contained 200 million cords of wood, or the energy equivalent of 32 billion gallons of fuel oil. Demand for fuelwood from BLM lands for both individual consumption and commercial resale paralleled rising energy prices. In fiscal year 1972, BLM granted about 3,500 free use permits for fuelwood, totaling about 5 million board feet. By 1980, BLM issued 10 times as many permits for more than 50 million board feet of wood.


During the 1970s, the National Park Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service joined BLM, the Forest Service, and National Weather Service in supporting the Boise Interagency Fire Center (BIFC). In 1973 the National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG) was created to develop standards for training, equipment, and aircraft, as well as a system for determining fire priorities. BIFC's mission evolved to provide logistical support to ongoing fires, while NWCG worked on overall fire planning and training. In 1974, the Forest Service's fire training center at Marana, Arizona became interagency and national in scope.

Snake River Valley crews training east of John Day, Oregon. (BLM)

BIFC had a major role in testing and developing firefighting equipment, including the Bell 214 helicopter. In 1974, BIFC tested an 8-wheel-drive all-terrain vehicle, the "dragon wagon," at BLM's Carson City District; the experimental vehicle logged 7,000 miles at 25 fires but proved expensive to operate and maintain. BIFC eventually acquired the smaller and more maneuverable "Unimog" for use in fire suppression.

by Louise Power
Oregon State Office

Melody Asher updates ADM Hal Bybee on status of fire. (Louise Power)

"Are you here to cook?"

"Not that I know of."

"Then what are you here for?"

"To fight fire!"

This conversation was not uncommon in the mid-70s when women first began fighting wildland fires. Prior to that time, few if any women had been seen on the fireline.

Because few women were in the field then, separate accommodations could not be made for such amenities as bathing. Sometimes, to avoid putting on a show for the whole camp, many women would bathe at mealtime—foregoing eating for bathing.

Melody Asher, a former fine arts major, is beginning her 12th season as a firefighter, her 8th as an engine foreman. "I had never heard of firefighting until I met Michael and that's what he did." Michael McBride, her husband, is helitack foreman for the Ely District, and one of Asher's staunchest supporters.

Asher is no stranger to the rigors of firefighting. She began as the only woman on a 20-man crew with the Colorado State Forest Service. Her first fire was, at the time, one of the largest in the history of Colorado—more than 4,000 acres. For 9 days, the crew dug line only to watch as the fire jumped it with whorls up to 300 feet high. "It's really hard if you're building line 16 hours a day. At the end of the day, your hands are just curled—they don't unbend. You have to take one hand and unfold the other hand. And then the fire just roars in and you have to run and sit on a knoll and watch it jump your line." On this fire Asher learned to respect fire and the fire organization at work.

Asher is now the ICMR (Incident Commander, Multi-Resource) on the Ely District. She is basically the field commander for major fires. She sizes up fires; determines what personnel, equipment and support will be needed; directs the firefighting operation; keeps dispatch informed of progress; and, in the end, does the paperwork.

She has not achieved this unique position without years of hard work and study. In addition, Asher has taken supervisory courses culminating this past year in a situation unit leader course which will allow her to perform on larger project fires the work she already does on district fires.

When asked about her proudest accomplishment, she is quick to say that it is attaining her current position. When asked why, she answers: "I enjoy having the big fires on my shoulders."

Public lands burned 1971-1980

The year 1977 was a big fire year. More than 10,000 fires burned over 2 million acres in the West. California's fire season lasted from January to September, costing $400 million. BLM continued to rely on helicopters for most of its suppression activities.

In the mid-1970s BIFC, the BLM Service Center, and the University of Arizona developed the Automatic Lightning Detection System (ALDS). Tested in Alaska, it was up and working in the 11 western states by 1978. The system recorded nearly every lightning bolt striking the ground, giving fire managers an early warning system in areas with high fire danger.

But BLM soon found itself flooded with more data than it could handle. The Bureau then began working on a system that would translate lightning strike information into probabilities for starting fires and combine this with climatological information to predict which fires were most likely to spread. BIFC and BLM field offices began using remote automated weather stations (RAWS) to obtain meteorological information. A new system, the Initial Attack Management System (IAMS), integrated ALDS and RAWS data and was ready for field use by 1981.

By the late 1970s, federal land managing agencies began to recognize the values of fire in natural ecosystems. Fire policies began to shift from control to management: prescribed burning came to be recognized as a management tool. In 1977, BLM's Diablo Resource Area in California recommended the use of a controlled burn in its Management Framework Plan to improve wildlife habitat and livestock forage, and to reduce fire fuel accumulations adjacent to Pinnacles National Monument. In 1979, 3,000 acres were burned in a successful test of this management technique.


Automation has been used in the Bureau since the mid-1950s, when the Oregon State Office leased IBM computers to develop timber appraisals for its O&C Districts. By the mid-1970s, automated data processing systems and equipment were in use throughout the Bureau, making much of its work more efficient. However, few standards or guidelines governed the use of information systems or computer equipment; the growth of automated data processing (ADP) in BLM was at first haphazard and unplanned. Data was rarely shared or exchanged among systems, but BLM was beginning to recognize the need for managing its information on a Bureauwide basis—a process begun in the 1970s at the BLM Service Center and implemented in the field in the 1980s.

In 1960, automation in the Nevada State Office consisted of a Burrough's bookkeeping machine. However, BLM soon began to use Forest Service and Bureau of Public Roads computers to help design roads and bridges. Most early efforts in automation involved borrowed equipment and focused on administrative systems, but they served to build an understanding of automation that served the Bureau well as time went on.

Early Uses of

Computers soon came to be used for cadastral survey computations in Alaska, which led to the purchase of BLM's first computer in 1966—one that could be hauled in a plane and used in field camps. In 1968, a larger computer was installed in Anchorage to support cadastral surveys and help design the Alaska pipeline. At about the same time, BLM consolidated financial accounting in Denver, requiring the acquisition of a mainframe computer at the Service Center.

In 1976, the Service Center's Division of Standards and Technology developed a "Strategic Plan for Information Systems," to plan for data automation in a systematic manner. The Division started developing a Data Element Dictionary to establish common terminology among Bureau offices and began to look into the possibility of sharing inventory information among natural resource programs. The strategic plan guided the development of most automated systems in place in the Bureau today, building a foundation for standardization and data exchange between systems.


In 1978 a Honeywell mainframe computer was installed at the BLM Service Center, giving the Bureau the capabilities it needed for agencywide communications and data base management. By July 1978, BLM's centrally stored and processed mining claim recordation system was operating in all BLM states except Alaska. Because of an increased demand for automated systems by field offices, BLM installed Honeywell minicomputers in 1979 in all of its State Offices.

BLM was also busy developing prototype land and resource information systems in the 1970s. The Bureau's first automated land records system appeared in Alaska in 1975, which served as a precursor to today's Bureauwide Land Information System. A graphics system for resource information analysis and display, the Map Overlay and Statistical System (MOSS), was put together at the BLM Service Center in 1977 for use on new Data General equipment. The graphics system was used to help prepare the California Desert Plan, and later to prepare a study of birds of prey in Idaho and oil shale in Colorado. The system could create and overlay any number of resource data themes (e.g., wildlife habitats, rivers, roads, and forested areas) to identify potential uses and conflicts during the planning process. Also in 1977, the Service Center added remote sensing and high-altitude photography to the skills it provided the field.


BLM experienced its greatest growth during the 1970s. The National Environmental Policy Act ushered in an entirely new way of evaluating major federal actions; environmental statements and assessments greatly increased the Bureau's workload. Wild horses and burros on the public lands were afforded new protection, with specific management techniques prescribed by Congress. A host of new studies and legislation on mineral leasing; regulations on soil, air, and water resources; and final decisions on Alaska lands significantly expanded the Bureau's work.

New programs and employees appeared as BLM's management responsibilities grew. Multiple use management of the public lands was formally recognized by Congress in 1976 through passage of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act. FLPMA repealed outdated settlement acts and provided for the retention of most BLM lands in federal ownership; public lands were to be managed for a variety of uses as determined through a comprehensive land use planning system. FLPMA also recognized areas of critical environmental concern and other lands requiring special management and directed BLM to review its holdings for wilderness characteristics.

BLM was now positioned to look at more efficient management of the public lands. In the 1980s, BLM would begin to integrate its land and mineral records with information it maintained on natural resources, tying all this to specific locations through survey coordinates generated from the Public Land Survey System. According to Service Center Director Bob Moore, the development of the Bureau's Land Information System in the 1980s would come to have the same far-reaching effects on BLM that implementation of the Bureau's land use planning system did in the 1970s.

Bureau of Land Management
Employees table
Budget table
Revenues table
Burton Silcock1971-1973
Curt Berklund1973-1977
Frank Gregg1978-1981
Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act1971
Wild and Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act1971
Federal Land Policy and Management Act1976
Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act1980


Samuel T. Dana and Sally K. Fairfax look at BLM administration of the public lands into the late 1970s in Forest and Range Policy: Its Development in the United States, Second Edition (1980), as does Marion Clawson in The Federal Lands Revisited (1983). Though it has little discussion of BLM itself, Striking A Balance: Environment and Natural Resources Policy in the Nixon-Ford Years (1976) by John Whitaker provides a broad-brush review of the first half of the decade. Paul Wallace Gates in his Pressure Groups and Recent American Land Policies (1980) is worthwhile reading. The best focus on BLM and the public lands in the 1970s is William Wyant's Westward in Eden (1982).

On the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, see Irving Senzel's "Genesis of a Law," in American Forests, Vol. 84 (January and February 1978) and the 1979 Arizona Law Review with various articles on FLPMA.

Marion Clawson's The Bureau of Land Management (1971) provides insight into the structure and operation of the Bureau at the beginning of the Nixon years. Better yet is Paul J. Culhane's Public Land Politics: Interest Group Influence on the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (1981).

A compilation of articles on various aspects of public land management is presented in the Soil Conservation Society's National Land Use Policy: Objectives, Components, and Implementation (1972).

Range policy and management issues are discussed in the National Research Council and National Academy of Sciences' massive Developing Strategies for Rangeland Management (1984). Of particular interest in this compilation is Sally K. Fairfax's "Legal and Political Aspects of Range Management: Summary and Recommendations" and her "Coming of Age in the Bureau of Land Management: Range Management in Search of a Gospel."

Elmo Richardson's BLM's Billion-Dollar Checkerboard: Managing the O&C Lands (1980) handles O&C issues into this decade. Stephen J. Pyne's Fire in America: A Cultural History of Wildland and Rural Fire (1982) covers fire program developments into the 1970s.

Mineral policy and development are taken up by Carl Mayer and George Riley in Public Domain—Private Dominion: A History of Public Mineral Policy in America (1985). Coal leasing policy is handled by Robert Nelson in his The Making of Federal Coal Policy (1983). On the problems of the 1970s energy boom, see The Angry West: A Vulnerable Land and Its Future (1982) by Richard Lamb and Michael McCarthy.

On the wilderness issue, Roderick Nash's Wilderness and the American Mind (1982) is mandatory reading. The wild horse issue is handled by Heather Smith Thomas, The Wild Horse Controversy (1979) and Richard Symanski, Wild Horses and Sacred Cows (1985).

Gary Stein discusses the Alaska state land selection program in "Promised Land": A History of Alaska's Selection of Its Congressional Land Grants (1987). See the Alaska Native Land Claims (1978) by Robert Arnold et al. for information on the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.

On the Sagebrush Rebellion, see appropriate portions of The Angry West: A Vulnerable Land and Its Future (1982) by Richard Lamm and Michael McCarthy and Robert Nelson's Making Sense of the Sagebrush Rebellion: A Long Term Strategy for the Public Lands (1981).

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Last Updated: 08-Sep-2008