The Story of BLM
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The 1980s

There's no pressure like multiple use pressure.

—George Turcon

The 1980s

In the 1980s, the Bureau of Land Management consolidated the legislative gains it had made in previous decades and implemented cooperative resource management programs with land users in the field. A legislative mandate for multiple use management of the public lands was in place. Now the Bureau's challenge was to apply its authorities wisely and appropriately. According to former Assistant Director Irving Senzel, "Adequate law facilitates effective management, but does not guarantee it." How BLM implemented its mandates in the field was crucial to its goal of effective land management.


Director Robert F. Burford continued to decentralize Bureau operations to the field and implemented a "good neighbor" program intended to improve relations with local land users and state governments. BLM streamlined its regulations, inviting land users to increase their participation in managing the public lands. The use of cooperative agreements was expanded to get land users actively involved in solving resource management problems. In addition, the Bureau expanded its use of volunteers, whose contributions in funds and labor totalled $7.5 million in 1987. With these efforts, attempts to privatize the public lands in the Sagebrush Rebellion came to a close.

Although BLM transferred its responsibilities for managing offshore minerals to the Minerals Management Service in 1982, onshore functions were consolidated with the Bureau a year later. Federal responsibilities for classifying onshore mineral lands, overseeing exploration and development activities, and inspecting field operations were consolidated for the first time. BLM began to manage mineral resources on an equal footing with renewable resources.

The Bureau's planning system became a reliable tool for examining land uses and resource issues together, allowing both managers and users to participate in the decisionmaking process. While the participants in BLM's planning process—both inside and outside the Bureau—did not always agree on the Bureau's management priorities, at least they came to understand the system and their roles in it. BLM encouraged participants in the process to develop resource partnerships in a multiple use context rather than advocating preservation or development of separate resources.

The nation's change to an information society, together with increasing demands on public lands and resources, provided BLM a new challenge in the 1980s. The Bureau's rapid growth over the last four decades included massive increases in the information it maintained. Just managing this data and creating meaningful summaries—for both land managers and the public—proved to be difficult. In the 1980s, BLM recognized its data was a significant national asset and began to develop an automated Land Information System. The Bureau began to modernize its ADP equipment, standardize its data, and integrate its information systems to more efficiently process its workload and to make its information on federal land and mineral resources more readily available to the public.

Except for the transfer of 800 employees from the Minerals Management Service in early 1983, the number of Bureau employees remained fairly constant in the 1980s, as did its budgets. But in some programs, budgets actually declined for the first time in 40 years. To ensure that BLM accomplished its management objectives and fairly allocated its budgets, Director Burford strengthened the role of BLM's Management Team in overseeing Bureauwide program development and implementation. The "BMT," consisting of Associate Directors in Washington, State Directors, and the Directors of the Boise Interagency Fire Center (BIFC) and the BLM Service Center, has since played a major role in identifying present needs and future priorities.


Burford also asked several veteran State Directors to serve as Associate Directors in Washington "because people with recent field experience are often the best advisors, especially in top management." According to Burford, it was critical that the Bureau have State Directors rotate to headquarters "to help whoever sits in the Director's chair and the Assistant Secretary's office understand how their decisions affect day-to-day management of the public lands."


In 1979, the Nevada Assembly passed a bill that called for state control of BLM lands. Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming passed similar legislation within a year. Six other western states (California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and South Dakota), however, defeated or vetoed "Sagebrush" bills. During the 1980 Presidential campaign, Ronald Reagan said "Count me in as a Sagebrush Rebel," but by 1981 the issue had almost disappeared.


According to historian Phillip Foss, the "good neighbor" policy of Secretary James Watt helped defuse the rebellion. Traditional public land users—ranchers and mineral interests—were assured they would have a continued presence on the public lands and be included with other interests in cooperative efforts to develop land use plans. But the idea of privatization of federal assets remained. In 1981, Senator Charles Percy of Illinois introduced S.R. 231 asking the federal government to sell off excess lands and properties to reduce the national debt. On February 25, 1982, President Reagan issued Executive Order 12348 establishing a property review board to identify federal assets no longer needed by the government. Included were buildings and other "real property," plus isolated, scattered tracts of the public lands.

A governmentwide "Asset Management" program was established to dispose of these holdings. Although it was not a new idea (disposal of scattered, isolated tracts of public land was common in the 1950s and 1960s), the program generated a great deal of controversy. Many agencies argued that excess properties identified under the program might be needed under federal ownership in the future. Conservation groups distrusted the Interior Department's motives in disposing of federal lands and criticized what they perceived as the program's broad scope. Most BLM land users, when confronted with the prospect of purchasing land at fair market value, found they preferred that the lands remain in public ownership.


Since the Asset Management program never generated broad support from the public and was not tied to ongoing Bureau initiatives—such as BLM land exchange programs—the effort was abandoned during President Reagan's first term in office. The idea of forming more logical management units on the ground, however, found widespread support; BLM's land exchanges grew in importance.

by Clair M. Whitlock
Former State Director, Arizona and Idaho

Clair M. Whitlock
Clair M. Whitlock (Jennifer Reese)

Looking back at my 32 years with the Bureau of Land Management, I am impressed with the ever-changing patterns or mosaics of activities which make BLM a unique organization. These mosaics are really problems and opportunities bound together by a rich history, politics, the law, and the traditional can-do attitude of BLM's people.

The Bureau's problems and opportunities consist of its basic mission as prescribed by law and regulation, overlaid by initiatives of the current administration or some outside entity. Perhaps State Directors' most significant role is to provide an interface between field workers and the politicos, inside Interior as well as user groups or the public at large.

The first half of the 1980s had a pattern that was different but typical in complexity of most any 5-year period in BLM's history. Traditional work levels and complexities were affected by administration initiatives such as Asset Management (sale of public land to reduce the national debt), the BLM/FS Interchange, and searches for ways to increase ranchers' active participation in managing the range resource. Conveyance of in-lieu selections to the states was pushed to high visibility by state governments and concurred in by both the Carter and Reagan Administrations.

Occupancy trespass abatement on the Lower Colorado River was a priority job dating from the 1960s. It was just wrapping up during the transition from Carter to Reagan. Wilderness study was a new program mandated by FLPMA which had drastically different directions under the two administrations. My role as State Director in this political interface was two-fold: First, legitimize administration initiatives and policies with the field personnel who already had more work than time; second, to report problems and suggestions to the policy makers to help smooth the process.

For example, the Asset Management program seemed to fly in the face of FLPMA. which in general prescribed long-term federal ownership of the land. I helped employees understand why the program was being advanced—that it was a White House initiative and that we would proceed per instructions. I also provided feedback to the administration on the lack of local interest (and dollars) to buy the lands, and other impacts. In Idaho this was so volatile an issue that several state and county officials used it as an election issue. Asset Management ran its course, but not without diverting much time and money from traditional realty programs.

The Lower Colorado occupancy abatement program was given high priority through several administrations. My involvement with the program came when the last trespasses were to be settled and the land vacated. The event came at the transition into a new administration whose policies shifted to selling some tracts or legitimizing occupancy. I needed to sell field managers on establishing a few lifetime estates for hardship cases and convince the administration to return the balance of the tracts to public use.

Keeping BLM's priority work on schedule is a balancing act between traditional and legislatively-mandated work, interfaced with politically-motivated programs. Helping field workers understand that both are legitimate—and politicos to understand local impacts and situations—gave me a lot of satisfaction.

As members of the Bureau Management Team, State Directors can influence a wide range of policy and operational issues. I had the opportunity to present my own ideas and suggestions on developing employees to help them reach their potential as either managers or technical specialists. With the help of many people, I was able to give new direction to the Bureau training program by developing the Careers Program.

It has been gratifying to work with the motivated and dedicated career workers of BLM— to see them produce in the face of great odds and in a small way help them develop into BLM's leaders of tomorrow.

Consolidating federal land ownership and management among agencies has been a recurring theme on the public lands. When President Carter's proposal for creating a Department of Natural Resources was abandoned, the BLM and Forest Service in May 1980 proposed a "Jurisdictional Transfer Program" to consolidate their lands into larger blocks, with the goal of reducing management costs, increasing management efficiency, and improving service to the public. The program continued through the change in administration, and in 1982 preliminary estimates indicated that the program would save the government about $30 million a year.


by D. Dean Bibles
Arizona State Director

In 1982, BLM was confronted with a need to satisfy the land claims of several parties. Under the Navajo-Hopi Relocation Act of 1980, BLM lands were to be exchanged for private lands, on behalf of the Indians. The state of Arizona had 194,000 acres in statehood land grants still outstanding. BLM was responsible for reimbursing the State of Arizona for lands taken by the Bureau of Reclamation to construct the Central Arizona Project—a canal to transport water from the Colorado River to the cities of Phoenix and Tucson.

On top of all this, the hodgepodge of land patterns that had developed over the years with federal, state and private lands intermixed, had created a land manager's nightmare, making the lands difficult to manage for their wildlife, recreation, wilderness, cultural, economic and other values.

BLM Arizona's solution to these problems was an aggressive land tenure adjustment program. This allowed federal and state agencies and private landowners to block up parcel of land, obtain other parcels for special purposes and switch administration of still other parcels for logical management patterns.

Between 1984 and mid-1988 more than 1,700,000 acres had been exchanged, transferred, or undergone changes of administration, and more changes of tenure were in the works. One example of the value of these exchanges was the acquisition by BLM in 1986 of the San Pedro River corridor in Southeastern Arizona. The San Pedro area is one of the most significant remaining large broadleaf riparian areas left in Arizona. It contains hundreds of wildlife species and more than 120 known archaeological sites. Also located in the area is a 200-yea old Spanish presidio or military fort—the only one of its kind still in a natural setting.

Most of the San Pedro River area acquired by BLM was comprised of two Spanish land grant dating from 1827. Tenneco West bought the lands in 1971, and by the early 1980s wanted to dispose of them. There were strong feelings among environmental groups and others, however, about protecting the area from housing developments. And we in BLM saw an opportunity to acquire and preserve this prime resource for the American public. White Tanks Associates, a Phoenix private land developer, purchased the lands from Tenneco. Then, in exchange for the 43,000-acre San Pedro River properties, White Tanks Associates receive 40,947 acres of undeveloped public land west of Phoenix.

Advantages of the Bureau's land exchange program include more efficient land management—wildlife values were enhanced, cultural resources protected, recreational opportunities increased, and educational and research opportunities were furthered. At the same time, land was provided for the state's economic growth without compromising other land management goals. With more and more demands on our public lands, Arizona's land exchange program has proved to be an effective tool in managing for the future and allowing all agencies involved to accomplish their goals.

BLM and the Forest Service could not agree on the size or scope of the program, however, and in January 1983 suspended work on the program. The General Accounting Office studied the program and recommended that the Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior "resolve the disagreement so that the program can be resumed." In addition, the General Accounting Office found that the agencies' efforts to comply with the Asset Management program also hindered the transfer program by "diverting many needed field resources" from its implementation.

In February 1986, BLM and the Forest Service issued a "BLM/FS Interchange" proposal that would have transferred more than 24 million acres of land between the agencies and given minerals management authority to the Forest Service for its area of jurisdiction. The Reagan administration submitted a bill to Congress, the Federal Lands Administration Act of 1986. In their legislative proposal, BLM and the Forest Service reported that there were 71 towns throughout the West in which both maintained offices. After the Interchange, that figure would have dropped to 36 towns—each of the 71 towns would have retained at least one of the two offices. Concern and some distrust from user groups and the public, however—all of whom were at least comfortable with the status quo—combined to prevent the bill's passage as of September 1988.

BLM/Forest Service Interchange Summary
(Areas in millions of acres) Surface ManagementSubsurface Management
BLMForest Service BLMForest Service
Before Interchange177.1168.74200
After Interchange171.7174.1216204
Net Change- 5.4+ 5.4
Note: Acres that would transfer from BLM to FS - 14.8 million
Acres that would transfer from FS to BLM - 9.4 million


On December 3, 1982, Interior Secretary James Watt transferred onshore minerals responsibilities of the Minerals Management Service (MMS) to BLM. Earlier that year (in February 1982), BLM's offshore mineral operations were moved to MMS when Watt moved the Conservation Division out of the U.S. Geological Survey. Consolidation of minerals functions in the Department had been discussed for many years— going back to the early 1960s—with support steadily growing for such a proposal.


The Conservation Division was formed in the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in 1925 to lease minerals, inspect field operations, and collect royalties on federal lands. BLM managed surface resources on the public lands and could veto USGS leasing actions if it felt sensitive resources were endangered by exploration or development. A major reason for changing this arrangement was that when BLM and the Conservation Division didn't agree on mineral leasing, the issues were taken up by different Assistant Secretaries in the Department, who raised problem cases to the Secretary for final decisions. In addition, the minerals industry had to deal with two agencies during leasing and development. As a result, it was not an established client of either agency, the way renewable resource interests were in BLM.

Specific proposals to merge the Conservation Division with BLM were made under President Nixon (in the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources) and again under President Carter. A major reason for the failure of these proposals was their scope: inclusion of a BLM-Forest Service merger in each proposal brought up numerous other issues. In addition, Congress didn't like the idea of being reorganized by the Executive Branch—these proposals would have required Congress to rearrange its committees on Interior and Agriculture.

When the Reagan administration's transition team studied the merger issue, it was well aware of the potential benefits—and fate—of previous proposals. Under Secretary Watt, the Interior Department decided to limit any merger proposals to "in-house" measures. Discussion first centered on whether BLM should gain minerals duties from USGS or whether the Conservation Division should be elevated to an independent agency.

by Dr. Sally K. Fairfax
University of California - Berkeley

Editor's Note: We have asked a well-known and highly respected "outsider" to provide her perspective of BLM. Dr. Fairfax has authored several articles and books dealing with public land policy including Forest and Range Policy with Samuel Trask Dana.

The similarities between the BLM and the Forest Service are obvious and important. Both agencies are planning-oriented, multiple use talking government land managers that are responsible for enormous amounts of federally owned land, most significantly in the western United States. That, plus the fact that both are part of the federal bureaucracy suggests that these two are, if not Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, at least basically alike. Nevertheless, overstating the similarities conceals much that is important about the land, the managers, and the legal/institutional context that is critical.

The BLM is frequently lampooned as the Bureau of Livestock and Mining while the Forest Service, for all its recent embattlement continues to enjoy public esteem symbolized by Smokey Bear's avuncular embrace. This is simply the downside of the fact that the BLM has, for diverse reasons, always been more responsive to its local, commodity oriented constituents. In part this reflects reality; until recently it had no other constituents and no authority to meet others' demands.

But the familiar tale that the Forest Service manages the trees and the BLM manages the grass is not only not true, it obscures the fundamental difference in the resources managed by the two agencies. The National Forests generally came to the agency unencumbered, reserved from the public domain prior to occupancy. The BLM, on the other hand, manages land which had a long history of private use prior to the belated assertion of federal authority in the 1930s. Further, the Taylor Grazing Act dedicated the lands to a single, specific use—grazing. Note the difference—the National Forests are not called National Timber Lands. And the courts did not help—it was not until the 1960s that grazing permits were consistently recognized as a privilege which the BLM could modify, rather than a right. The result of this distinction in the origin of the lands is that the Forest Service has been able to manage "its" lands and resources while the BLM has been obliged to conserve what the livestock operators consider their lands by trying to regulate the private ranching practices of the permittees.

That necessity, and provisions specifically added to the Taylor Grazing Act, resulted in a significantly different labor force in the BLM and the Forest Service. While the Forest Service was drawing its employees from forestry schools newly developed to imbue their graduates with the zeal of Pinchot's professionalism and several hundred years of European experience and study in forest management, the BLM was required to hire ranchers from the state in which they were to be working. The orientation toward local operators was intensified by the "McCarran leaves" in the early 1950s. Congress cut the Bureau's budget to near zero and most BLM employees either lost their jobs or were paid by the local Grazing Advisory Boards who, as a matter of law, were consulted on policy. The intellectual and professional cachet of forestry have yet to be experienced in the scholarship and practice of range science.

This responsiveness to local political forces has also been potentiated by the structure of the BLM, which is basically a western operation organized on a state-by-state basis to maximize the influence of the state congressional delegation in BLM matters. This compares with the Forest Service's early and successful efforts to obtain sufficient eastern land to become a truly "national" organization, thus minimizing western domination, and its regional organization, which puts mid-level management beyond direct reach of the states' congressional delegation.

In spite of these severe handicaps, the BLM has long yearned to be as respected and powerful as Smokey's boys across town. It was, indeed, BLM advocacy and aspirations which led in 1976 to the passage of FLPMA. Although FLPMA specifically did not repeal the Taylor Grazing Act (a much ignored fact which speaks political volumes even if its legal import is as yet ill-defined), it finally gave the Bureau a firm and continuing basis for existing, comprehensive real estate management authority, and the go-ahead for diverse multiple use management programs which it had been fabricating for nearly two decades.

The Reagan years were not conducive to rapid expansion in public appreciation of the Bureau. Nevertheless, underneath the continuing problems due to inadequate resources (one wag observed in the early 1980s that the BLM has four times the land to manage with one seventh the personnel and one third the money) there have been solid gains which bode well for the future flowering of the promise of FLPMA. For all of the reasons discussed above, the Bureau is way out front in the current trend to involve private enterprise in public resource management. It remains to be seen whether they can turn that necessity into a virtue.

In February 1982, Secretary Watt removed the Conservation Division from USGS, establishing the Minerals Management Service. On December 3, 1982, onshore minerals functions (managed by 800 MMS employees) were transferred to BLM under Secretarial Order No. 3087—leaving MMS responsible for royalty management and offshore mineral leasing. Section 5 of the order states that "all functions related to royalty and mineral revenue management, including collection and distribution, within the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) are the responsibility of the MMS. All MMS onshore minerals management functions on non-Indian lands, including resource evaluation, approval of drilling permits and mining or production plans, inspection and enforcement, are transferred to the BLM." The order was amended on February 7, 1983, to add onshore Indian lands to the Bureau's responsibilities.


Secretary Watt intended his action to ensure "full consideration" of mineral resources in accordance with BLM's multiple use mandate, adding that "BLM has long-established expertise in resolving potential conflicts among legitimate but competing interests in onshore resource management." With the merger, minerals were placed on an equal footing with other public land resources.

Since 1981, BLM State Offices signed cooperative agreements with seven western states (Washington, Oregon, Idaho, California, Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana) to create a single point of contact for approving mining operations and to create joint inspection and compliance programs. BLM also issued regulations requiring miners to submit mining notices and develop plans of operation to protect other resources. From 1981 to 1987, BLM patented 497 mining claims and completed more than 8,500 mineral materials contract sales.

Mining Law

Section 314 of FLPMA required that all mining claims on federal lands be recorded within 3 years of passage of the Act—by October 1979. As of July 1988 over 1.2 million claims remained active, but an equal number were abandoned by failure to file or failure to complete necessary assessment work, thereby clearing the lands and mineral estate for other purposes, including conveyance or exchange. According to Andy Senti, Realty Specialist in the Colorado State Office, "FLPMA's recordation requirement was a big plus for BLM as it provided immediate information about a resource use on the public lands that previously was very difficult to search from county records."

Under Director Burford, BLM reaffirmed the need for a coal leasing program but changed its emphasis from meeting production goals to leasing the amount of coal necessary to create a competitive market. From 1981 to 1987, BLM issued 101 competitive coal leases on federal lands.


But coal development remained as controversial as ever in the 1980s. In January 1981, 11,282 acres of coal lands were put up for competitive bid in Colorado and Wyoming; other sales followed in April and October. In a lease sale held in the Powder River area of Montana and Wyoming in April 1982, charges were made that BLM's minimum acceptable bids for leases had been leaked to some of the participating coal companies. A coalition of environmental groups brought suit against the Department charging that inadequate activity planning had taken place and that fair market value was not attained in the lease sale. In addition, prior to the sale the Northern Cheyenne Tribe in Montana sued the Department, alleging BLM's environmental impact statement did not address the impacts of coal development on its reservation.

by Charlie Most, Public Affairs Officer
Eastern States Office

If the battery starts your car on a frosty morning, or if you score a double in your next round of skeet, or just use a lead sinker to get some bait down to where the fish are, maybe you should thank BLM. That's because 90 percent of the nation's lead supply comes from a few deep mines in the Mark Twain National Forest in southeastern Missouri. And since this is acquired land with federal minerals, the Bureau's Eastern States Office handles the leasing and operational aspects for this unique mining effort.

Lead is vital to our quality of life. Besides batteries, shotshells, and fishing sinkers, lead is used for radiation shields on atomic-powered submarines and energy facilities; electrical, optical and telephone cables; plumbing; and many other items. Lead even serves as a "cushion" around foundation pillars on skyscrapers to protect them from tremors or shocks.

Lead has been a valued mineral throughout much of history. In 1701 the French, during their early explorations of the Mississippi Valley, found lead ore in southeast Missouri. By 1720 the LaMotte mine, in what is now Madison County, was in operation. During the late 1700s, shallow lead deposits were also being worked near Potosi, and in the early 1800s, additional nearby lead deposits were developed. This area, centered about 80 miles south of St. Louis, became known as the "Old Lead Belt" and production continued there until 1972.

But with signs that the old lead belt was being depleted, St. Joseph Lead began extensive exploration farther west. In 1955, it discovered a rich lead-zinc ore body, 40 miles long, near Viburnum, Missouri. This "New Lead Belt" or Viburnum Trend accounts for nearly all of America's lead production, and is the largest lead mining area in the world. But, the Viburnum Trend is expected to produce at present levels only until the year 2000 and then rapidly decline. However, another promising area lies directly south of the Viburnum Trend on another part of the Mark Twain National Forest.

Monitoring these activities plus any subsequent leasing or mineral development requires on the-ground expertise. For the Missouri lead mining activity, this comes from BLM's Rolla, Missouri, Project Office under the Milwaukee District's Division of Solid Minerals. This office came under Eastern State's jurisdiction in 1983 when upland minerals responsibilities were assigned to BLM following the MMS-BLM merger. BLM's team of experts works directly with Mark Twain National Forest employees. Following stipulations jointly developed by BLM and the Forest Service, these mineral specialists are often a thousand feet underground and several miles from a mine's entrance shaft to assure safety and to check mine advance (how fast and in what direction the tunnels are being opened). They check the condition of the tailings ponds where finely ground dolomite limestone is deposited after the minerals have been separated during the smelting process and they monitor the mineral production on which royalties are paid the federal government.

The lead mines of southeastern Missouri produce a vital mineral and provide employment in an area that otherwise offers few work opportunities. BLM is known for its traditional land management role, but it also oversees a unique mining operation—of a metal that is common, but a lot more important than we might realize.

by William Frey
Montana State Office

In the fall of 1982, the Fort Union Coal EIS project manager and I were completing an on the-ground review of two federal coal tracts north of Lake Sakakawea, in west-central North Dakota. Both tracts were being considered for possible lease offer in the Fort Union Coal Region Round I Lease Sale scheduled for September 1983. The Garrison tract had been delineated to supply coal to a possible power plant, and the smaller Sakakawea tract had been designed as a Small Business Set Aside Tract.

As we were looking at the Garrison tract, we noticed what appeared to be small dish antennas at ground level about a hundred yards off to the west. Except for fences and a county road, there were no other observable man-made structures in the area. The topography was essentially flat, and a person could see for several miles in any direction. What were two small dish antennas doing in the middle of a North Dakota field? I remembered that we were not very far from the Minot Air Force Base that maintained and operated Minuteman Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) sites. It was later learned that North Dakota is the fourth largest nuclear power in the world. We began to wonder if the Garrison and Sakakawea tracts had been delineated in the middle of an ICBM missile field.

Coal Mining in Colstrip, Montana

The Air Force was immediately contacted. They were mailed copies of the BLM planning documents and the tract profile reports. Very shortly thereafter, the Air Force told us that two underground missile silos and several miles of underground communication cables were within the boundaries of the two tracts. Needless to say, the Air Force was concerned about the possibility of large scale surface mining in or near the missile sites. After a number of meetings between BLM, the Air Force, and the company interested in leasing federal coal in the Garrison tract, it was decided to delete the two tracts from the September 1983 federal coal lease sale. During the next year, the Air Force completed studies that identified buffer zones needed to protect missile sites and the underground cables during surface mining.

It had not occurred to anyone that there could be problems in leasing federal coal in the vicinity of underground missile sites. There was no mention of missile sites in the BLM planning documents, the Sakakawea and the Garrison Tract Profile Reports, and the draft Fort Union EIS. A momentous effort had been made to keep the public, local, state, and federal agencies involved and informed while preparing for the coal lease sale. Yet something significant almost slipped by. Some of the staff lost a little of their confidence that all the bases had been covered. From that time on, the Air Force and BLM had paid better attention to each other's activities. Even today, when I hear of a proposed BLM surface disturbance project in Montana or North Dakota, I ask if there are any Coal missile sites in the area.

Investigations by the Department's Office of the Inspector General and Congress' Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) could not substantiate the charges brought by environmental groups, but prompted two further studies of coal. The Linowes Report, Fair Market Value Policy for Coal Leasing, issued in February 1984, reported that the United States received fair market value in its coal lease sales but recommended minor changes in the program. An OTA report, Environmental Protection and the Federal Coal Leasing Program, recommended that BLM better document the environmental impacts of coal development and strengthen public and state participation in the leasing process.

Coal Studies

In the fall of 1987, the U.S. District Court in Montana ruled that the Powder River coal lease sale was conducted in accordance with the law and that fair market value was attained. However, in the suit brought by the Cheyennes, the court directed BLM to prepare a supplemental EIS on impacts to tribal lands.

After the OTA report was issued, Secretary William Clark instituted a moratorium on BLM's coal leasing activities to reevaluate the program. BLM completed a final EIS in late 1985, strengthening its documentation requirements. Another policy change was a return to leasing coal on an application basis—the pre-Morton policy. Consequently, by 1988, all coal regions (except Powder River) were "decertified," meaning BLM no longer determined where leasing would occur.

The Energy Security Act of 1980 renewed national interest in oil shale by creating an independent, government-sponsored Synthetic Fuels Corporation. Its mission was to stimulate production of 2 million barrels of oil a day by 1992 through the retorting of shale oil and liquification of coal. The sharp drop in oil prices during the 1980s, however, made oil shale an unattractive investment. Exxon pulled out of its Colorado operation in 1982, while other companies also quit or cut back their work, producing an economic bust for Colorado's Western Slope.

Oil Shale

A major issue in the 1980s concerned the validity of oil shale claims made on 82,000 acres in Colorado prior to 1920 (oil shale was a locatable mineral until passage of the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920). In administrative proceedings in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Interior Department ruled that almost all the claims were invalid, but these findings were overturned in federal district court in Tosco vs. Hodel. BLM was directed to transfer all title to the claimants, including the entire subsurface mineral estate. Existing uses, including grazing and hunting, could have been eliminated. The Interior Department appealed the case but also followed the court's recommendation to "explore settlement without further appeal in this litigation."

In 1986, Secretary Donald Hodel approved a settlement with the claimants whereby the federal government retained rights to all oil, gas, and coal deposits on the lands and preserved Colorado's 50 percent share of mineral leasing royalties. Existing rights-of-way were also retained, along with grazing and recreational uses of the land. Nevertheless, environmentalists and others criticized this action as a giveaway. The State of Colorado and ranchers whose grazing leases were affected also protested, prompting Congress to begin a study of possible actions with regard to the remaining unpatented claims.

The Federal Oil and Gas Royalty Management Act of 1982 (FOGRMA) strengthened BLM's inspection and enforcement programs for onshore oil and gas production. Lease operators were required to document production from wells and comply with site security measures established by the Secretary. Penalties were set for operators who failed to protect against theft or tampering with meters recording production. BLM completed all inspections required on high-production leases and launched a comprehensive training program on inspection, drainage analysis, and unit agreements.

Oil and Gas

Procedures for determining known geologic structures (KGSs) on federal lands erupted into a major national controversy in the 1980s. How BLM classified and leased federal minerals could mean millions of dollars in revenue gained or lost by state governments. Oil and gas companies disagreed among themselves about the way lands should be leased, with larger companies generally favoring competitive leasing. Because competitive leasing included bonus bids (50 percent of which were shared by the states), most states also favored the process.

by Danny S. Charlie
Navajo Coordinator, Farmington Resource Area

I have been the Navajo Affairs Coordinator for the Bureau's Farmington Resource Area for the past 14 years. I am also a proud member of the Navajo Tribe, the largest Indian Tribe in the United States. I began my career with the Bureau because I saw an opportunity to help my people and work with natural resources. As Navajo Coordinator I help BLM make sure that the concerns of Navajos are taken into account before any resource decisions are made. I assist in land pattern adjustments, helping both the Tribe and the Bureau manage their lands better. I also serve as the Navajo interpreter. (The Navajo language is perhaps the most complicated language in the world. A code in the Navajo language was used during World War II to convey secret information to the Allied Forces. I understand the code was never broken!)

There are several thousand Navajos living off the reservation in northwestern New Mexico, in a region known as the "Checkerboard Area." The land pattern was created by a railroad land grant but further complicated by lands taken up by Anglo and Hispanic homesteaders, individual Navajos, and the Navajo Tribe.

Perhaps my single most important contribution has been my work with the Bureau of Indian Affairs on the Navajo Tribe-BLM Land Exchange. The exchange sought to secure the homes of Navajos who had settled on the public lands but had not filed entries. It has taken 12 years so far and many public meetings and conferences with BIA and the Navajo Tribe to work out solutions. I am still working on Navajo occupancy problems. Two are of particular interest to me now.

One involves an 80-year old Navajo named George Simpson. His home is on public land just inside a wilderness area. Mr. Simpson has always lived on this spot and wanted to fix his corral and add electricity. Since improvements of any type are not allowed in a wilderness area, BLM is working with him and the Navajo Tribe for a solution to the problem. The Tribe supports the idea of having the wilderness area's boundary changed (which would require congressional action), or resetting him to a nearby area they hope to purchase.

Mrs. Bessie Woody is an elderly sheepherder who speaks only Navajo. She has lived on the same mesa all her life. Some time ago she had a new home built a little west of her old location. It was a logical choice since the new site gave her a beautiful view of Ojo Alamo Spring, one of the (now) De Na Zin Wilderness Area's more scenic sites. Her home unfortunately, was not on her allotment as she had thought, but on public land. Because she believes the mistake is hers, she is willing to move back onto her allotment but needs assistance.

Danny Charlie and Bessie Woody (Alan Hoffmeister)

Another problem in the Checker board Area is coal. Many Navajos are living over federal coal, in areas set aside for preference right leasing or open to competitive coal leasing. Most Navajos oppose coal development because they feel their traditional homes and grazing areas will be destroyed, along with many important religious sites. They want to retain their way of life and their bond with the land.

BLM has tried to deal with these concerns, yet respond to the demands of coal developers. The San Juan River Regional Coal Environmental Impact Statement (late 1970s-early 1980s) was one such effort. BLM held several public meetings and hearings in adjacent communities and local Navajo chapter houses. At some of these meetings, the Navajos asked me for my personal opinions on coal development and whether I had taken the side of non-Indians. My answer was simple, "While it's true I work for BLM, I'm here to give you the information in your own language so you will understand it. We need your input." Judging from the questions I receive daily, I'm sure I have their trust and I'm hopeful that I have done much to dispel the "Bad Guy" image some have attributed to the government. Certainly, my work with the Navajo people and public is challenging and rewarding—the highlight of my career.

In the late 1970s noncompetitive oil and gas leases issued by BLM in Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, through the simultaneous oil and gas leasing program (the "SIMO" lottery) were challenged in federal court by the State of Arkansas and supported by Senator Dale Bumpers, Chairman of the Senate's Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The court reversed this action and the tracts were eventually awarded through competitive bidding.

In 1982, BLM issued noncompetitive oil and gas leases on certain tracts in Amos Draw, Wyoming; one tract promptly sold on the secondary market for over 1 million dollars. Widespread coverage in the national news media stirred up additional congressional concern about BLM's KGS procedures.

by Paul Parthun
Inspection & Enforcement Coordinator, Roswell District, New Mexico

(Terry Keim)

"Sheesh! Another 3 a.m. cementing operation. Guess I'd better try for some earlier sleep tonight." I gather my gear and put it into my 4-wheel-drive pickup so I won't be delayed any longer than necessary when I get to the office at 1:30. My eyes don't want to stay open as I drive to the office, but the cold morning air helps a little. Once in the pickup I turn up the radio—loud—and check the drilling location. It's fully 40 miles into the boonies. Later, even though I see the bright lights of the drilling rig in the distance, I take a wrong turn and the road ends at a ranch cattle watering station.

All Petroleum Engineering Technicians (PETs) empathize with such schedules. Well drilling is a 24-hour-a-day job and PETs must be on call to witness certain operations that are critical in protecting the subsurface such as fresh water or potash zones. And it's curious that most such witnessing occurs in the wee hours. PETs shrug it off saying, "Everybody knows cement doesn't set up in daylight hours."

After the well is drilled in concordance with BLM approvals, industry operators must continue to comply with Federal laws, regulations, and policies as they begin to produce the formation or abandon the well. This is the job of PETs—to ensure that oil and gas operations on federal and tribal lands are in compliance. They are inspectors who enforce these requirements as necessary.

Congress and the BLM have provided the PET with broad responsibilities and authority relating to oil and gas operations as they deal with safety, protection of the environment, proper disposition of production, accurate reporting of production, and adequate lease site security. PETs must exercise critical judgements in levying assessments for noncompliance, or under certain circumstances, even shutting down an operation.

PETs are certified by BLM only after undergoing a comprehensive training program that includes classroom (160 hours) and on-the-job activities. They are tested throughout this time, usually for about a year. If they perform satisfactorily, they are recommended by their supervisor for certification. Industry background, skills in mathematics and knowledge of geology, together with a thorough knowledge of Federal laws, regulations, and policies are essential for a PET to do a good job. Then add an ability to analyze computer and records data, filing correct reports and keeping abreast of the latest operational information, and you have an idea of what it takes to be a PET at 3 a.m. or any other time.

It's a good job. PETs spend much of their time outdoors. Oil and gas activities are generally in the most beautiful and remote areas of the western United States. PETs work alone most of the time, making independent judgments. No place here for indecisive, super-gregarious types.

I arrive at the rig a half-hour late but I see that the crew isn't on hand yet to do the cementing operation. I zip up my jacket and walk to the company trailer to introduce myself, then climb the steel-grated stairs to the floor of the rig and into the "doghouse." I meet the driller and his crew, thank them for the hot coffee, then look at the driller's log to review the operation so far. I make sure the APD is posted and the operation is laid out as approved. The well ID is O.K. too—good operator. Out of the small window, I can see the yellow lights of six equipment trucks about a mile off, raising a cloud of dust visible even from here. Looks like a humongous caterpillar. On the ground again, I walk around the rig, making sure that everything is as it should be.

The crew arrives, hooks up, and begins forcing cement into the hole under high pressure, surrounding the steel well casing with an impervious layer of cement, assuring that nowhere along its 800-ft. length will drilling fluids or production be allowed to leak into the subsurface.

The job comes off without a problem—pretty rare. It's 9 a.m. now and I sit in the truck writing out my report. By 9:45 I'm on the way back to the office and I radio my supervisor that I'll be in by 11.

Once there I look in the mirror and I'm glad I don't have to be anywhere today where my appearance makes a difference. I look like hell and I don't feel much better. But, hot water, soap, comb and towel makes me feel like I can handle the rest of the day.

In our office PETs rotate by the job, so I know I won't be called out again tonight. Ahh, sleep. When I arrive home my wife greets me with a little reserve, then confides, "I've invited the Hortons over this evening. O.K.?" The Hortons? Sheesh! I'd rather have another 3 a.m. cementing job.

After Amos Draw Director Burford imposed a moratorium on oil and gas leasing to study KGS issues. BLM contracted with the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and the Keplinger Technology Consultants, Inc., an independent consulting firm, to evaluate its oil and gas leasing program, particularly its KGS determinations. The NAS recommended that BLM broaden its criteria for determining KGSs, while the Keplinger Technology Consultants recommended ways of improving BLM's program, focusing on standardization and documentation. In the meantime, Burford directed BLM to reinstate a long-standing Departmental policy requiring thorough geologic evaluations of lands before making KGS determinations.

BLM's intensified geologic evaluations resulted in larger KGS areas being designated on federal lands—causing a controversy with smaller oil companies who favored smaller KGS areas and increased noncompetitive leasing. At the same time, however, Senator Bumpers and others in Congress introduced bills to make all federal oil and gas leasing competitive. Congress eventually passed a compromise measure, the Federal Onshore Oil and Gas Leasing Reform Act of 1987, which eliminated the government's KGS program. The act specified that all federal oil and gas leases must be offered competitively at oral auction; tracts not receiving bids would then be available for noncompetitive leasing for up to 2 years.


The 1980s ushered in a fundamental change in the federal government's role in natural resource management. Funding for BLM renewable resource programs was trimmed to accommodate declining federal budgets and Reagan administration goals to simplify federal regulations. The Bureau focused its efforts on consolidating field activities, cutting down on duplication in renewable resource programs. Director Burford called for greater agency cooperation with BLM's publics and solicited more active participation from local land users, conservation groups, and other government agencies. Cooperative Management Agreements, used by BLM's wildlife program with state agencies since the 1960s, were expanded to include recreation and other user groups.

To more fully integrate renewable resource programs and make field operations more efficient, BLM began to collect and share data among its programs. The ecological site inventory (ESI) was developed to measure vegetation on the public lands. This and other joint ventures reduced the need for programs to conduct overlapping resource inventories. Data on vegetation came to be used as a measure of soil erosion, deer browse, livestock forage, watershed condition, or even dune stability in off-road vehicle areas. ESI data was used to develop land use plans, with more specific data then being collected by individual programs.

Another initiative crossing program lines during the 1980s was the Bureau's development of a policy for managing riparian areas. BLM had managed riparian areas since the 1960s, but with most of its emphasis related to the wildlife program. During meetings sponsored by the Congressional Research Service in 1984, riparian management surfaced as a significant issue in BLM's range program and was prominent during consideration of the Omnibus Range Bill by Congress. In May 1985, BLM's National Public Lands Advisory Council recommended that the Bureau develop a comprehensive riparian area management program.


In a policy statement signed by Director Robert F. Burford on January 22, 1987, riparian areas were recognized as "unique and among the most productive and important ecosystems" on the public lands. Riparian areas, which comprise about 1 percent of BLM lands, were defined as "directly influenced by permanent water, with visible vegetation or physical characteristics." BLM policy was established to "maintain, restore, or improve riparian values to achieve a healthy and productive ecological condition for maximum long-term benefits." To do this, BLM would recognize riparian values in newly developed resource management plans and activity plans and would achieve its goals through management of existing land uses.

BLM range conservationists worked with livestock operators to design grazing systems that would improve riparian vegetation and streambank stability. Bureau employees in the Rock Springs District (Wyoming) transplanted beavers to rehabilitate eroding streams. Willow and aspen logs were delivered to streams, where beavers built dams—which, in turn, built up streambanks, water tables, and streamside vegetation. In Oregon, BLM biologists enhanced spawning habitats of salmon and steelhead trout by enlisting volunteers (local sportsmen's clubs and Boy Scout troops) to construct gabion check dams, which created pools within streams.


In 1978, BLM successfully negotiated with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) to reduce the numbers of grazing environmental impact statements (EISs) it would prepare in the field from 212 to 158. BLM wanted to consolidate smaller planning areas and combine its grazing EISs with Resource Management Plans that were to be prepared for BLM Resource Areas. No grazing lands were omitted from the EIS requirement; NRDC and the Courts agreed with the change. With further consolidations agreed to by NRDC, BLM scheduled the last of 142 grazing statements for completion in 1989.

In 1980, BLM continued to rely on forage inventory data to prepare EISs and set stocking rates. Many permittees—and range scientists—took issue with this method of deciding grazing issues because BLM was using data collected in only one season of a given year. Livestock organizations and academia challenged the value of data, much of which had been collected during a drought year and did not reflect normal or long-range forage growth.

The Society for Range Management, the National Academy of Sciences, and other groups examined this question and recommended that BLM implement long-term studies to better reflect range forage production, condition, and trend. Under Director Burford, BLM moved away from relying solely on inventory data to monitoring range conditions on public grazing lands. BLM's monitoring activities examined

— Actual Use (number of livestock on allotment)
— Utilization (amount and type of forage used)
— Climate (monthly precipitation, temperatures, etc.)
— Trend (improving, declining, or static)


by Phyllis Roseberry
Grass Creek Resource Area, Wyoming

In October 1984, I became Area Manager for the Grass Creek Resource Area. My assignment followed the completion of the Area's Management Framework Plan and Grazing Environmental Impact Statement. Thus, I was in an enviable position to implement a plan and actually be a party to the changes. This aspect appeals to me because I can experience direct feedback.

But feedback is definitely a mixed bag. Significant improvements have been made in the rangeland, watershed and wildlife resources but significant controversy has also been generated. This job is challenging to say the least.

People often ask me if I think being a woman has affected the public's or Bureau employees' reaction to me. I think there was considerable apprehension both from the staff and from the users prior to my arrival. Any change from the usual is always difficult to accept. I believe focusing on the joint public land use problems before us rather than on our individual physical differences helped develop a good relationship and mutual appreciation. Within a relatively short time, any misapprehension or distrust was alleviated.

Area Manager Phyllis Roseberry with Wayne Erickson, Wyoming State Office recreation program leader. (Dave Stout)

As for the public land users, if anything, they have been extra polite to me. I remember being yelled at once by a permittee who had been trespassed. In the middle of a sentence he stopped and apologized profusely. I think he suddenly realized yelling at a woman was not proper gentlemanly practice." I told him the yelling didn't bother me because it showed he considered me an equal to any man who would have trespassed him. Again, finding solutions to the problems far outweighs any differences.

I believe the team effort of a relatively small group of diverse specialists in a resource area setting is a most exciting situation. It offers abundant opportunities to learn more about human nature as well as resource problems. We are all different in many ways, but the important thing is that all of us do our jobs because we are basically dedicated to good public land management.

BLM also collected data on major events such as wildfires, insect infestation, or drought. According to Billy Templeton, Chief, Branch of Range Management, BLM's move to monitoring was of major benefit to the Bureau's range program: "It institutionalized range studies over time, instead of having the BLM rely on data collected for just one year."

BLM's range program also began to focus on allotments where management would bring the best results. Grazing allotments were placed in one of three categories:

"M" (Maintain) — Resource has high to moderate production potential; producing at or near potential; present management satisfactory.

"I" (Improve) — Resource has high to moderate production potential; producing at low to moderate level; resource will respond to improved management.

"C" (Custodial) — Resource has low production potential; producing at or near potential; opportunities for improvement do not exist.

BLM developed a more effective cost/benefit analysis for range improvements and began to target them on "I" allotments where they would do the most good. Working closely with allottees and other land users during the process paid significant dividends to the Bureau: many ranchers and conservation groups came to support the effort.

BLM Grazing Fees
YearsAnimal Unit Month Fee

The grazing fee formula set by the Public Rangelands Improvement Act (PRIA) remained in effect on BLM and Forest Service lands until 1985. Congress then asked the agencies to study and report on the fee structure for 1986 and subsequent years, which was accomplished in their 1985 annual reports to Congress. The House and Senate, however, ran out of time to consider the study and did not enact any new legislation on grazing fees.


In the absence of Congressional action, Secretary William Clark was instrumental in convincing President Reagan to issue an Executive Order reestablishing the PRIA formula, but with a minimum fee of $1.35 per animal unit month. NRDC challenged the legality of this order, but the courts decided in favor of the government. As of September 1988, Congress continued to study legislative proposals setting new fee formulas.

Grazing Revenues 1981-1986

After passage of the Public Rangelands Improvement Act in 1978, BLM developed an experimental stewardship program to test new approaches to improving rangeland conditions, as directed by the act. BLM set up 16 experimental stewardship projects in eight states with land users and other agencies (for example, the Forest Service and state wildlife agencies) to cooperatively develop new and innovative ways to manage public rangelands.


Cooperative Management Agreements (CMAs) and coordinated resource management plans grew out of this work. Director Burford introduced CMAs to BLM's range program in 1982 to recognize outstanding livestock operators on the public lands and assure them of continued long-term tenure on their allotments. Operators with CMAs were free to adjust livestock numbers, seasons of use, and kinds of livestock grazed on their allotments within predetermined limits agreed upon and included in the terms of the CMA. CMAs were issued for 10 years with resource evaluations scheduled at 5-year intervals. If multiple use objectives were met, BLM could renew the agreements—and grazing permits—for another 10 years.

The program was never fully implemented, however. BLM was sued by NRDC in 1984, asserting that the Bureau was allowing a specific group of land users to exert undue influence in managing grazing on public lands—without involving other interests in the process. After losing the case in 1985, BLM declined an opportunity to appeal the case and dropped CMAs from its range program.

In the meantime, the Nevada State Office took the lead in developing Coordinated Resource Management and Planning (CRMP). This process involved everyone concerned with resource management in a given area—landowners, BLM and other agencies, resource users, and the interested public—to address resource conflicts at the local level. According to State Director Edward F. Spang, CRMP plans were developed within the framework of laws, regulations, and applicable land use plans. "Major areas of conflict were subjected to the CRMP process, including livestock grazing, watershed problems, off-road vehicle designations, and wilderness suitability recommendations."

and Planning

by Al Riebau
Wyoming State Office

There is one resource that the Bureau has a responsibility to manage that exists in every state, district, and resource area. It's so universally pervasive that no other resource or Bureau resource program could exist without it. It is also quite probably the resource that we know the least about managing collectively as an agency and the one to which the BLM has assigned the smallest staff. That resource is, of course, the air around us.

Air doesn't mean just air quality to the Bureau's air specialists. Air to us means Air Resource Management (ARM). ARM is a new atmospheric science approach perhaps unique to land managers. It covers abroad range of activities including climate, weather, smoke management, pollution impact modeling, monitoring for such things as acid rain and visibility, and regulation development coordination.

BLM originally hired air specialists to perform air quality analyses to support EIS preparation. This was indeed a one-dimensional activity, involving only air quality work. Most of it centered around projecting the potential for air pollution against various state and federal air standards. It was, of course, a bread-and-butter activity and Bureau specialists enjoyed a well-defined if hectic role. At one time the Bureau had a staff of 12 specialists busy with these kinds of activities. Some of these early specialists worked on upwards of seven EIS teams at a time and administered analysis contracts to support the documents.

As minerals markets softened, EIS work dwindled. ARM personnel have gone the way of the EIS frenzy and we are now down to four full-time positions within the agency. At this writing, three State Office ARM specialists fill both state and agencywide functions. The Utah State Office specialist, Dr. William Wagner (hired in 1975, the first ARM specialist employed by any federal land management agency), is the Bureau's lead technical expert for air impacts from hazardous wastes. The Colorado State Office specialist, Scott Archer, is the lead for visibility (atmospheric clarity as it relates to air pollution) issues. I serve as a technical lead for acid rain issues, wilderness air quality and monitoring issues, plus some aspects of air quality and smoke management, and air pollutant modeling. The Washington Office program manager, Stan Coloff, provides overall program guidance and policy development besides coordination of training and interagency relations. Carrying out these Bureauwide duties at State Offices doesn't fit into the normal scheme of the Bureau's organizational structure. In truth, the factor that has allowed the program to function has been the support of managers who make allowances for the unorthodox (and recognize that these specialties at times must be shared) for the good of the Bureau as a whole.

The development of ARM in the Bureau is far from over. Applying climate information, especially if global climates shift as some predict, will require specialists with knowledge of Bioclimatology. As new particulate and visibility regulations are applied, ARM specialists in smoke dispersion prediction and dispersion meteorology will become more necessary. The challenge for the Bureau's ARM specialists will be to provide the support that these issues will demand. This means learning to manage the atmosphere as a resource that can be renewed and enhanced, with the Bureau taking an active role. Nothing as pervasive as the Earth's atmosphere can remain unnoticed for very long.

by Myra Musialkiewicz and Michael Giblin
Hazardous Materials Staff

In April 1985, hydrogen sulfide gas was released from a liquid waste lagoon at the Lee Acres Landfill near Farmington, New Mexico. The gas caused temporary illness and discomfort to landfill users and emergency response personnel. At the same time, there was a release of surface water from one lagoon that ran into the adjacent arroyo.

Under the Recreation and Public Purposes Act, BLM is authorized to lease its lands to municipalities for varied public purposes. San Juan County in New Mexico holds such a lease to operate the Lee Acres Landfill, one of 336 operating landfills authorized under the Act. The lease allowed the County to provide essential sanitation services at a very low cost.

The Bureau, as landowner, is one of the parties that is responsible for protecting public health and safety. This responsibility derives from federal laws, specifically the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, as amended (CERCLA, the "Superfund Act"). Private parties, local governments (like San Juan County) and states also have responsibilities under this statute as well as related federal and state laws.

BLM studied the site and identified potential risk, from several possible sources, to local well users. Once identified, the Bureau quickly took action to deal with the potential threat to the public health of landfill users and subdivision residents without regard to who was actually responsible for the threat. Once the imminent threat was handled, BLM began working on long-term assessment and control of risk in the area. Because of the other possible sources of contamination, the Bureau expanded the area of study to include not only the landfill but the surrounding industrial area that contains a refinery and numerous oil and gas wells. The study area as now defined contains 2,100 acres of federal, state, and private lands.

Since the site investigation, BLM has conducted soil-gas contaminant analyses and extensive hydrogeologic and water quality studies throughout the area, including the San Juan River. BLM is continuing to monitor groundwater levels and quality through 19 detection wells that were installed in the larger site area. In addition, the Bureau is in the process of awarding a contract to conduct a remedial investigation/feasibility study/EIS for the entire site. The contractor will determine the nature, quantity, and source(s) of pollutants and contaminants at the site and will include a search for potentially responsible parties who may share the costs of any necessary site cleanup. It will also examine alternative means for site cleanup and make recommendations for consideration by the Secretary as part of the decision process.

By 1988, BLM spent in excess of $1.3 million dealing with this contamination problem, with another $3 million anticipated for the additional studies. Based on EPA estimates, a site of this size could cost as much as $25 million to clean up. The cleanup is scheduled to begin in mid-1992, with monitoring continuing a minimum of 20 years.

In the meantime, BLM is not issuing any more R&PP leases for landfills; rather, it will transfer lands needed for municipal landfills and other waste disposal facilities out of federal ownership. In 1989, the Bureau will begin audits of other landfills on the public lands for compliance with EPA regulations and BLM environmental stipulations.

Soil, water, and air activities were placed in BLM's range program in 1982. Since then the branch has conducted soil surveys on the public lands at a rate of 4 million acres per year. Of 157 million acres targeted for such surveys, 129 million have been completed. The branch also developed an automated soil information system to integrate existing soils data with other resource information.

Soil, Water,
and Air

Watershed projects in the 1980s included nine hydrologic modeling programs focusing on water quality, erosion, and precipitation. Eight watershed activity plans were implemented in support of the Colorado River salinity program and four in support of flood and sedimentation mitigation. Instream flow assessments were completed for the Beaver Creek National Wilderness River in Alaska and the San Pedro River management area in Arizona to identify resources in these areas and the amounts of water required to sustain them.

BLM has supported more than 20 years of research by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) at the Reynolds Creek Experimental Watershed in southwest Idaho. Congress established the facility in the early '60s, to collect data on runoff and water yields from plateau and foothill grazing areas. The project was undertaken to facilitate the long-term improvement of grazing and rangeland management, and has been the largest and lengthiest watershed research project BLM ever participated in.


The Reynolds Creek watershed contains a wide range of environmental conditions found in a variety of western rangelands. BLM/ARS research yielded important data on resource monitoring and modeling, precipitation and climate, streamflow and runoff, erosion and sediment, water quality, vegetation, and soils.

During the 1980s, the extensive data base on rangeland activities was used to create simulations that estimate impacts and magnitudes of land practices in land use plans. A 1984 conference of federal and state land management agencies began an era of transferring Reynolds Creek data and analysis techniques into management practice.

Starting in 1981, BLM's air resources program participated in the National Atmospheric Deposition Program to help quantify water chemistry (including acid rain) on the public lands. BLM also developed smoke and pollution estimation models which quantify atmospheric changes and dispersion potentials.


BLM's role in managing fish and wildlife resources on the public lands became more widely recognized in the 1980s. Fish and Wildlife 2000, a strategic plan for the program, was signed by Director Robert Burford on May 21, 1987. It is the first long-range plan developed for the wildlife program, calling on BLM to manage "with emphasis on ecosystems to ensure viable populations and a natural abundance and diversity of wildlife, fisheries, and plant resources on the public lands."

BLM's wildlife program features three components: wildlife habitat management, fisheries habitat management, and threatened/endangered species management. The Bureau accomplishes its goals by implementing habitat management plans (HMPs); it also specifies fish and wildlife objectives in other activity plans and implements recovery plans for threatened and endangered species. In addition, BLM biologists place stipulations in leases, licenses, and permits to mitigate adverse impacts to fish and wildlife habitats and implement on-the-ground improvement projects.

BLM has worked on cooperative fishery projects since the early 1960s including the Las Vegas District's School Springs project to restore and maintain habitats for the endangered Warm Springs pupfish. Jim Deacon (left), University of Nevada, Las Vegas and Lew Myers, BLM. (Jim Yoakum)

Since 1980, 160 HMPs were prepared in BLM, bringing the total developed to 399. More than 100 have been fully implemented, with 212 more in the process of being implemented. Fish are priority species in 106 aquatic HMPs prepared to improve habitat on 3,100 miles of streams crossing public lands, according to Art Oakley, fishery biologist in the Oregon State Office. The major species for 50 of these plans are either endangered or threatened, or candidates for listing. In addition, Bureau biologists contribute to interagency recovery plans for threatened or endangered species, including the Warm Springs pupfish in Nevada and the humpback chub, bonytail chub, and Colorado squawfish in the Colorado River system. A total of 73 recovery plans have been developed, 56 of which are currently being implemented.

By Allen Cooperrider
BLM Service Center

Desert Bighorn sheep are the only ungulate native to the southwestern deserts and mountains. About 80 percent of the current desert bighorn habitat is on federal land, most of which is administered by BLM. Although once in danger of extirpation, desert bighorns are now well on the way to recovery. BLM's past efforts have been key to this effort and the future of the desert bighorn depends on BLM's continuing efforts.

Most of the native ungulates of North America, such as elk, mule and white-tailed deer, and antelope had severely declined by the beginning of the 20th century. Desert bighorn continued to decline well after the other ungulates were on the road to recovery. About 1 million desert bighorn sheep were present in North America at the beginning of the 19th century. By the mid-20th century their numbers had declined to less than 10,000 due to overhunting, disease, competition from livestock and burros, and human disturbances.

In 1950, BLM began efforts to protect bighorn sheep and their habitat. These efforts were the first such efforts and the beginning of BLM's formal wildlife program. By 1960, BLM was actively working with biologists from state agencies to improve desert bighorn habitat. Those practices—cooperation with state wildlife agencies, conservative use of bighorn ranges by livestock, water development, avoidance of shifts from cattle to domestic sheep use, and preservation of critical areas in public ownership—have remained a cornerstone of BLM efforts for desert bighorn. By hiring wildlife biologists and establishing a wildlife program in the mid-1960s, BLM further enhanced several of its recovery programs.

In 1985, Congress appropriated a Challenge Grant of $300,000 to BLM specifically for the recovery of desert bighorn sheep. The appropriation stipulated that the grant be matched by private sector funding or in-kind services. With this, BLM was able to initiate numerous projects, including water developments, inventory and monitoring, and studies to determine causes of lamb mortality. Currently, about $1 million a year is being spent (including the Challenge Grant, matching contributions, and base funds) to continue these efforts.


In January 1988, Director Burford signed a rangewide plan for desert bighorn sheep that outlined a balanced program of inventory, on-the-ground projects, monitoring and research for facilitating recovery of desert bighorn in 115 habitat areas in the Southwest. By implementing this rangewide plan, BLM should be able to achieve a substantial recovery of sheep within the next 25 years.

by Robert E. Stewart
Nevada State Office

Management of America's wild and free roaming horses and burros has given the BLM a unique role in maintaining a colorful aspect of Western lore—the roundup. The modern rancher conducts few cattle roundups because of costs. Yet the roundup remains the only effective way to remove excess horses and burros from western rangelands.

In some places, the animals are water-trapped. A temporary fence is placed around a water hole, and when thirst overcomes caution, horses enter the enclosure, only to have a gate close behind them.

Far more common is the contract helicopter gather. This effort requires the Bureau wild horse specialist to thoroughly know the herd and the herd-use area. Before a contract is let, the specialist, through reconnaissance flights, locates the horses and identifies those to be removed.

Then trap sites are selected. These must be near a road, because the horses will be trucked to a center for freeze branding, vaccinations, and eventual adoption. More than a hundred metal fencing panels arrive—enough for a main trap pen, including sorting pens to separate mares, wet mares and foals, and stallions. Long wings of panels, a quarter mile or more, reach out from the trap entrance, creating a funnel effect. Experienced contractors can erect these in one day, two at the most.

Often, camouflage is used. Brush may be cut and woven into the panels. Canvas may be used to break the straight lines so the trap is less obvious to the spooky horses.

As the trap nears completion, the Bureau specialist and capture pilot reconnoiter the area by helicopter, being careful not to disturb the bands of horses. Now the colorful part begins. Still camera and motion picture photographers start gathering to capture some of the spirit and color of this bit of the Old West.

The helicopter, at low altitude, circles out to haze the horses toward the mouth of the trap. Drawing on experience, the pilot moves the horses at a pace which tires, but does not exhaust, them. One band may be "parked" while the pilot circles back to draw in more, grouping 35 to 75 horses some distance from the trap.

Now the pilot swings back and forth in the sky like a talented, tenacious sheepdog at work, moving the whole herd. Slowly at first, then faster, the pilot hazes the herd toward the open end of the trap.

Meanwhile on the ground, a trained "parada" (or "Judas") horse has been led to a point just outside the open end of the trap wings. It is held by a worker crouched close to the ground. As the helicopter-pushed horses draw closer, the tethered horse is released. It runs toward the trap, followed by a thunder of dust-raising hoofs. Timing is critical, for the worker holding the parada horse must get out of the way, unseen, to avoid personal injury or spooking the herd.

Deep in the trap wings, another crew member dashes out behind the horses, "closing" the trap with a canvas "gate." Though the horses could easily tear through the cloth, few of them do, never having seen "walls" before.

A more solid gate closes. The helicopter lands, and the next phase begins.

The startled horses mill about the trap, often charging around as they spot people outside. Once the horses are sorted a period of quiet and settling down begins. A state brand inspector often reviews the horses for signs of ownership; not only brands, but signs of having been saddled or having worn halters will put horses under jurisdiction of the state estray laws.

Brought into close proximity, the horses need special care. They are susceptible to injury and sickness, especially in the first few days. If they have been run too hard or over hard rocky ground, leg and hoof injury may take several days to show up. But the horses are now cared for daily by some of the best trained horse handlers in the world, the managers and staff of BLM wild horse facilities.

Roundup outside Susanville, California. (BLM)

Increased cooperation and partnerships have been developed with conservation organizations, commodity groups, and landowners to encourage outside participation in habitat improvement projects. For example, national-level agreements were signed with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Ducks Unlimited, the National Wild Turkey Federation, and Trout Unlimited to expand cooperation and joint activities at the field level. Congressional appropriations of challenge cost-share matching funds (funds set aside to match donations from private sources) made increased cooperative efforts possible. To encourage private investments on the public lands, Fish and Wildlife 2000 also calls for development of a "gift opportunity catalog" to promote contributions to fish and wildlife projects, including land acquisition or access needs.

BLM placed greater emphasis on developing interdisciplinary rangewide management plans for certain high-visibility species, such as the desert bighorn sheep, desert tortoise, anadromous fish, waterfowl, and raptors to provide specific strategies for key species and ecosystems. An emerging issue for BLM is conservation of biological diversity on the public lands. The Office of Technology Assessment defines biological diversity as "variety and variability among organisms and the ecological complexes in which they occur....Thus, the term encompasses different ecosystems, species, genes, and their relative abundance." To date, most of this concern has concentrated on threatened and endangered species, but according to BLM biologist Allen Cooperrider, the Bureau's role in conserving biological diversity at the community or ecosystem level is likely to increase in the future.


BLM's wild horse and burro program in the 1980s focused on removing excess animals from the public lands to bring their populations down to appropriate management levels, which were established through BLM's planning process for about 95 percent of its herd management areas. In conjunction with the National Academy of Sciences, the Bureau also awarded contracts for research projects on fertility control and population genetics of wild horses. Removals from 1980 to 1988 reduced horse and burro populations by about a third, but BLM did not expect to reach its management objectives until the early 1990s. Because controversies continued to elevate this issue to national prominence, in 1988 Director Burford asked Congress to hold oversight hearings to provide the Bureau with guidance on administering this difficult program.

BLM found homes for nearly 75,000 excess wild horses and burros through its Adopt-A-Horse program since 1980, but many older horses proved to be unadoptable. Although the law authorizes humane destruction of unadopted animals, the American public strongly opposed this approach. BLM has since turned to new initiatives, including an increase in adoption efforts in the East and the establishment of a pilot sanctuary for unadopted wild horses on private lands in South Dakota. BLM also sent horses to satellite (temporary) adoption centers in areas where adoption demand existed. From 27 such centers in 1983, the number of satellites grew to 71 in 1987. BLM also worked with prison systems in four states (California, Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming) to establish inmate wild horse training programs to increase the adoptability of wild horses.


During the inflationary years of the late 1970s and early 1980s, a national housing boom caused a rash of speculative bidding for timber from federal lands in Oregon and Washington. Bids rose from around $100 per thousand board feet to $300 and $400. In 1982 the nation entered a recession. Timber prices plummeted to the $100-per-thousand level and sometimes below. The high-bid contracts became uneconomical; companies could not harvest without incurring severe financial hardship. Many faced bankruptcy. In addition, it was anticipated that massive defaults on contracts would cut even further into the already shrinking receipts going to both the O&C Counties and the U.S. Treasury.

BLM and the Forest Service created a program in 1982 to extend the term of the high-bid contracts. The intent was to give contract holders more time in which to harvest the timber, hoping that lumber prices would rise, and to blend high-bid and low-bid timber to soften the financial impact on the contract holders. In 1984 Congress passed the Timber Contract Payment Modification Act which allowed some contracts to be bought out by the holders at a reduced price and the remaining contracts to be extended through 1989.

Timber revenues 1981-1986

BLM law enforcement has "come of age" in the 1980s with Bureau agents and rangers participating in cooperative efforts with other agencies, such as this Interagency Marijuana Raid Team, consisting of BLM agents and the Oregon State Police in the Roseburg District. (BLM)

During the 1980s environmental groups protested several O&C activities. One effort involved limiting BLM's use of herbicides on competing vegetation in young forest plantations. A 1984 legal challenge was successful; use of herbicides was stopped by court order until BLM could analyze their use on the public lands.

Preserving old-growth forests also became an issue; virtually all of the old-growth Douglas Fir forests remaining in the Pacific Northwest are found on federal lands. Environmentalists argued that management of O&C lands under the principle of sustained yield should be revised in favor of full multiple use. The northern spotted owl, a subspecies native to these same Douglas Fir forests, is thought to depend heavily on old-growth and mature forests as habitat.

After 10-year plans for western Oregon forests were completed in the early 1980s, BLM and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife agreed to protect habitat for 90 pairs of owls through 1987. In that year the agreement was renewed through 1990 and the number of pairs for which habitat was to be provided was increased to 110.

In 1986, BLM's analyses of the effect of timber harvest on the owl in the early-1980s environmental impact statements was challenged. After State Director William Luscher found the analyses to be adequate, a court suit was begun. A district court ruling favorable to BLM is currently under appeal.

In addition to its management of O&C and commercial public domain forests, BLM started to manage woodland areas in the 1980s. These areas include pinyon-juniper woodlands in Utah, Nevada, New Mexico, and Arizona valuable for fuelwood (harvested by both commercial interests and individuals), plus items such as pinyon nuts and Christmas trees. BLM hired a forester in each district in Nevada to manage this program.


Prior to the 1980s, the idea of managing cultural resources in BLM was almost entirely tied to compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act and to assisting other BLM programs in fulfilling their objectives. As the Bureau's compliance proficiency grew—and as FLPMA's multiple use emphasis became more ingrained in the Bureau—the cultural resource program was able to focus on a more long-term, planning-based management model.

Initial program manuals adopted in 1978 were developed with the conviction that the cultural resources program should be like other BLM resource management programs, according to John Douglas, current program leader in Washington. "Just as in the more traditional BLM programs, managers should be able to come out of a comprehensive land use planning process with cultural resource allocations and then manage the resources according to the allocations." A new BLM planning guidance manual in 1986 incorporating these concepts was the Bureau's first significant step toward realizing these ideas.

BLM's role in managing cultural resources for the public's benefit was given new visibility when the Anasazi Heritage Center opened in the Four Corners area of southwest Colorado in August 1988. Built as an interpretive, curatorial, and research facility, it will house millions of artifacts and records from the Dolores Project, one of the largest archaeological recovery projects ever undertaken. The BLM-managed facility will serve as a regional repository for the Bureau of Reclamation, the Forest Service, and BLM. In addition, it will provide visitors with interpretive programs and students with education and research opportunities.


Demands for recreational opportunities on BLM lands have continued to grow—an unsurprising fact when one considers that 90 percent of Americans participate in some form of outdoor recreation. In 1987, BLM estimated that there were 56.4 million visits to the public lands, a three-fold increase since 1968.

Because of other national priorities, BLM was not able to focus much attention on its recreation program through the early and mid-1980s. During this time, however, there were significant increases in ORV use, river running, caving, and snowmobiling on the public lands, plus the traditional uses of hunting, fishing, and back-country exploring.

by Gary Stumpf, Archaeologist
Arizona State Office

Cultural resource management has really matured in the past 10 years. We started out as rather native stepchildren, asking as many questions of ourselves as the Bureau was asking of us. The very concept of cultural resource management was new, and BLM was one of the pioneers forging its standards, its procedures, and even its jargon. It has been a process of learning and adjustment for all of us. Some of that adjustment has been awkward, but has in general been salved with a fair amount of humor. The result is that the cultural resources program has emerged with a secure footing in helping BLM carry out its multiple use mission.

One of our greatest challenges in cultural resource management today is communicating our knowledge and enthusiasm about the resources we manage to the general public who pays for the work we do. The public has always had a legitimate stake in the way we have managed historical and archaeological resources; after all, we wouldn't be in the business we are in without some far-reaching legislative expressions of public will. Few people have actually participated in cultural resource management activities, however, and the public's sense of ownership of, and responsibility for, those resources is not well developed.

Archaeologist Jennifer Jack working with students. (Peggy Avey)

Arizona is particularly fortunate in having two very large and active amateur archaeological societies—the Arizona Archaeological Society and the Arizona Archaeological and Historical Society. We also seem to have an uncommon number of non-affiliated amateurs and others who are willing to devote their efforts to preserving the past. In the past three years alone, amateur archaeologists and other volunteers contributed 18,000 hours of their time to assist Arizona BLM in cultural resource management work. That's a remarkable demonstration of public support, reflecting a spirit of interest and cooperation that I hope we never take for granted.

Our volunteers come from all over the United States; one of them last year even came from England. Some of them belong to organizations we don't usually associate with cultural resource preservation. For example, members of the Arizona Desert Racing Association recently volunteered to help us construct a fence around an archaeological site to protect it from off-road vehicle damage. Every once in a while things like that happen to remind us that stereotypes are not valid.

Arizona is also fortunate in having the most comprehensive cultural resource public awareness program in the nation, spearheaded by the State Historic Preservation Office. The program centers around Arizona Archaeology Week, an annual event which includes exhibits at the state capitol and local communities, tours of archaeological and historic sites, presentations to schools and community groups, poster contests, newspaper and television coverage, participation on radio talk shows, and other activities. BLM is a major participant in this event each year, and we cannot help but believe that these efforts have gone a long way toward shaping public attitudes on the need for preserving the fragile record of our past.

By the late 1980s, the recreation program assumed a more dominant role in the Bureau. Several factors contributed to this increased emphasis, not the least of which was the President's Commission on Americans Outdoors, established by Ronald Reagan in 1986. Public meetings and a subsequent report heightened the public's interest in America's recreation resources, in a manner somewhat analogous to the work done by the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

A very special group of people (from left to right, Barbara Hodel; BLM Utah State Director, Roland Robison; Secretary of the Interior, Donald Hodel; Miriam Mueller, friend of the Hodel family; and Moab District Manager, Gene Nodine) went on a fact-finding tour in 1987 to discuss BLM river management. They are shown at Vista Viewpoint overlooking Westwater Canyon's gorge on the Colorado River in Southwestern Utah. (Mary Plumb)

Along with this effort, BLM developed Recreation 2000, a long-term strategic plan for the management of outdoor recreation opportunities on the public lands. The plan presents an overview of BLM's recreation and wilderness programs and provides policy for future efforts, including visitor information and interpretation; resource protection and monitoring; land ownership and access adjustments; partnerships and volunteer programs; and facilities, permits, fees, and concessions.


Since 1981, BLM has managed 24.6 million acres of public lands in 855 separate locations as wilderness study areas while it prepared environmental impact statements to determine their suitability for inclusion to the National Wilderness Preservation System. Under FLPMA, BLM must complete its studies of these areas by 1991.

By 1988, Congress designated 25 of these areas (totaling 450,000 acres) as wilderness, starting with Bear Trap Canyon in the Lee Metcalf Wilderness in Montana in 1983. Aravaipa Canyon in the Safford District and eight areas on the Arizona Strip District were designated in the Arizona Wilderness Act of 1984. Cebolla and the West Malpais wilderness areas were designated in the Albuquerque District under the El Malpais National Monument and National Conservation Area Act of December 31, 1987.

BLM Wilderness Study Area, Kanab Creek Esplanade, Hack Canyon, Arizona. (BLM)

The Bureau's first wilderness management plan was completed for Bear Trap Canyon in 1984. By 1988, 12 draft or final plans had been completed. BLM continued to develop management guidelines for its designated wilderness areas, including procedures governing aircraft flights, management of fish and wildlife habitats, and regulation of mining claims made in areas before they were designated.

by John Bailey
Needles Resource Area

The East Mojave covers 1.5 million acres, most of it public lands managed by BLM. All of the classic land uses are here—grazing, mining, recreation. The classic conflicts are here too, all within view of the 15 million residents of southern California and Nevada.

The California Desert often brings to mind off-road vehicles, sand dunes, and acres of creosote. The East Mojave, by contrast, has no "open areas." It contains pinyon-juniper woodlands and mountain peaks with white fir. While recreation in the area still requires vehicles, the 3,000 miles of roads and trails show very little incidence of cross-country travel. Most everyone at some point gets out and takes a walk. Interestingly, a casual observer would be hard-pressed to tell whether a particular group is affiliated with a conservation/preservation group or one of the many ORV groups in the region—they all do about the same thing when they come to the East Mojave and, in fact, individuals often belong to both groups.

In the past, public lands singled out for special attention were usually transferred to another agency that had the funding or skills to manage the area. The "old" BLM was merely a temporary caretaker. No more. FLPMA redefined BLM, allowing it to grow. In its desire to intensively manage unique areas, the "new" BLM stood on the cutting edge of the public debate on the proper balance between conservation and use of federal lands. Special areas such as the East Mojave National Scenic Area (or El Malpais), King Range and the proposed San Pedro National Conservation Area are important not only for the resources that led to their designation, but for their aesthetic qualities. The "new" BLM will be challenged in achieving this delicate balance.

View from Wildhorse Mesa to Providence Mountain. (BLM)

How BLM develops recreational opportunities in the East Mojave will certainly set a tone for the region and perhaps the agency—arguments over developed campgrounds vs. primitive backcountry camping; fear that enhancing recreation opportunities will bring in too many visitors; controversy over whether hiking trails should also be used by equestrians or mountain bikes (expected to become a major activity in the not too distant future); firearm use; and the age-old argument (for BLM. anyway) of exactly what is a "proper" road?

How BLM handles the thorny issue of mining and grazing in a scenic area will also set an important precedent. We already require plans of operation for most activities, along with performance bonds. The future will most likely bring some attempts to define what undue and unnecessary degradation really means, and there is the ticklish issue of miners who are more interested in mining investors than ore. But these are not merely problems or conflicts—they are opportunities for BLM to tell the public about multiple use, what we are and what we do, and to redefine ourselves in the process.

by Gregory F. Thayn
Wilderness Coordinator and EIS Team Leader, Utah State Office

The BLM wilderness review in Utah began in 1978 with an inventory of the 22 million acres under BLM management. Studies are still in progress as of 1988 and the BLM anticipates possibly several years of interim management before Congress will consider wilderness designation for public lands in Utah.

The review has been filled with controversy from the outset. Many of the issues relative to the Wilderness Act that were debated in the 1960s were never resolved and continue to complicate the Wilderness Review. Definitions and applications for terms such as "road," "outstanding," and "substantially unnoticeable" are subjective and can never be consistently understood or applied by everyone involved in the process.

The history of the BLM's Utah wilderness review is one of decisions by BLM and appeals by other parties. Constituencies have organized on both the pro-wilderness and anti-wilderness sides of the issue. The BLM has come to know the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, the Utah Wilderness Coalition, and the Utah Wilderness Association on the pro-wilderness site and the Multiple-Use Coalition, Utah State Legislature, and association of local government and mineral development interests on the anti-wilderness side. Misinformation abounds; facts never stand in the way of a good solid opinion.

Contributing to the problem is the fact that Utah possesses some outstanding areas that obviously meet the Wilderness criteria, but it also contains an abundance of resources such as uranium, coal, and tar sand. Some of the areas such as Sid's Mountain Wilderness Study Area, are highly regarded by both wilderness and off-road vehicle enthusiasts and those who want a "wilderness" where they can use their off-road vehicle. The issue is complex and "compromise" is not part of the vocabulary for discussions between opposing factions.


BLM's Wilderness Study Areas include approximately 3.2 million of the 22 million acres of public lands in Utah. Citizen alternatives range from the Earth First, 16 million-acre alternative that ignores the presence of intrusions and land ownership, to the zero-acre, NO MORE WILDERNESS, alternative endorsed by the Utah State Legislature. More moderate alternatives of 3.8 and 5.2 million acres are proposed by the Utah Wilderness Association and the Utah Wilderness Coalition.

The Utah BLM Statewide Wilderness Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was published in 1986 and some 4,496 submissions with a total of 6,213 signatures were received during the comment period. The Final EIS will be completed in 1989 and the Secretary of the Interior will make wilderness recommendations to the President in 1991. The real test of the process will come in the legislative forum where Congress will hear the opposing viewpoints and compromise will be a necessity.

In July 1988, the Justice Department concurred with an opinion by Interior's Solicitor which found that Congress did not intend to reserve federal water rights for wilderness areas when it passed the Wilderness Act of 1964. The opinion noted that Congress could reserve water rights for wilderness areas at any time or seek them under state law. According to Secretary Donald Hodel, "This opinion will help provide a sound basis for the ongoing creation of new wilderness areas while preserving state-law water rights which, in the West, are the lifeblood of most state economies."


Conveyance of in-lieu land to states totalled 415,000 acres by 1988, leaving fewer than 90,000 acres of public lands for conveyance in the lower 48 states. Land exchanges were a high priority under Director Burford; 1.6 million acres of public lands were exchanged under his tenure for 2.1 million acres of state and private lands to consolidate ownership patterns and promote more efficient land management. More than 107,000 acres of BLM lands were sold to provide for community expansion. BLM continued to designate special management areas on the public lands. By 1988, the Bureau managed 162 natural areas totaling 2.4 million acres and more than 250 Areas of Critical Environmental Concern comprising 5.1 million acres.


The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980 (ANILCA) decided how the state's public lands would be allocated and managed. In addition, ANILCA modified sections of both the Statehood Act and the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act regarding issues such as ownership of inland waterways, easements, Native allotments, the state land selection period, and certain land conveyances to the state and to Alaska Natives.


BLM conveyed more than 34 million acres of land to Alaska since 1980, with the state receiving title to 84 million acres (over 80 percent of its allotment) by July 1988. In addition, more than 17.8 million acres were transferred to Alaska Native corporations. As of July 1988, title had passed for 36 million acres, or more than 70 percent of the land granted by ANCSA.

In total, BLM Alaska has been given the job of conveying 148 million acres of land since 1959. In the 1980s BLM adopted a "Patent Plan Process" to streamline the required field examinations, survey procedures, and patent preparation time. BLM plans to complete its land transfers by the year 2008.

Inland waterways cover more than 10 million acres of land in Alaska. BLM is currently determining how many of them are navigable. Until the Bureau completes this determination, it will not know which of these lands belong to the state under the Statehood Act. The Submerged Land Act of 1988 ratified as a matter of federal law a 1983 Secretarial policy that applied similar standards to Alaska land ownership as has been applied to the Lower 48. In general, the act provides that the state and Alaska Native corporations will not be charged for lands under lakes larger than 50 acres or rivers wider than 3 chains (198 feet).


In 1988, BLM managed 90 million acres in Alaska. When the title transfer program is completed, BLM will manage approximately 64 million acres, while retaining some functions (such as firefighting) on 150 million acres. ANILCA greatly expanded America's national parks and wildlife refuges; in addition, more than 70 percent of all federal lands classified as wilderness are found in Alaska. Sixteen national wildlife refuges cover 75 million acres, while national forests cover 23 million acres. The National Park Service administers some 50 million acres of parks and preserves. ANILCA also created 25 wild and scenic rivers in Alaska and identified 12 river systems for further study.

Other Federal

Under ANILCA, BLM's responsibilities for land management picked up something without parallel in the Lower 48: a requirement under Section 810 of the act to evaluate the effects of its actions on traditional subsistence uses of the public lands by rural residents—Indians, Aleuts, and Eskimos. Hunting, fishing, trapping, and the collecting of firewood and various plant foods have always occurred on these lands. With ANILCA's new mandate, BLM began to analyze the effects of its actions (withdrawing, reserving, leasing, or disposing of public lands) on subsistence uses and needs.

This effort has involved working with the Alaska Land Use Council plus state and federal agencies to obtain information from Native corporations, villages, and individuals; BLM hired anthropologists and additional biologists to complete this work. The results have been a more complete understanding of human use of Alaska lands and a new sensitivity for managing those lands to minimize impacts to people still living off the land.

All Native allotment applications made under the 1906 Native Allotment Act that were pending before the Department on or before December 18, 1971, must be processed by BLM. Title has been issued on 2,200 parcels. Over 5,000 applications for an additional 10,000 parcels must be resolved. Congress has legislatively approved many pending allotments, but the complexity of the remaining applications has resulted in a slow and tedious process that BLM plans to complete by the year 2000.

While FLPMA repealed federal settlement laws in the lower 48 states, settlement was allowed to continue in Alaska until October 21, 1986. In 1981, BLM opened about 950,000 acres in the Minchumina area of the Glennallen Resource Area for settlement; 129 applications were filed. In 1983, 10,250 acres were opened at Slana (also in the Glennallen Resource Area), with 500 applications received. But with no electricity or municipal water supplies available to settlers, homesteading became a sacrifice that most people were no longer prepared to accept—only about 20 patents were issued under the program since 1981.


BLM's cadastral survey program faced major challenges in Alaska. Short field seasons, remote and hostile environments, and, until recently, the need for multiple visits to complete survey notes all contributed to a difficult and frustrating effort. Given its responsibility to survey the state in a reasonable time, BLM Alaska made great strides.


Less than 2 percent of the state's 365 million acres had been surveyed at the time of statehood. Shortly thereafter, innovative survey applications were developed: new distance-measuring equipment using radio waves replaced the measuring of distances on the ground and provided point-to-point measurements miles apart. Monumentation requirements for surveys of state and ANCSA selections were reduced to 2-mile intervals on exterior township boundaries. And an Airborne Control Survey system was developed, in which helicopters were employed to transport mobile distance measurement units.

Satellites provided additional surveying capabilities. The Bureau's first Doppler systems, called geoceivers, determined geographic coordinates from onsite data received from orbiting satellites. Today's technology allows even more exacting accuracy in just a few hours by observing several satellites simultaneously. In other areas, BLM has used aerial photo interpretation to determine meanderable bodies of water and to delineate meander lines.

Along with this technology came the development of computer-assisted drafting in 1982, automating the manual survey plat process. A more recent addition is a computerized drafting program, AutoCad. With AutoCad, plat drafting can keep up with field surveyors. AutoCad will eventually allow all of BLM's drafting to be done automatically from data entered by field surveyors.


BLM's land use planning system proved to be an effective tool for integrating the Bureau's diverse programs and activities into a multiple use framework. The task of integrating its vast information holdings, however, was not yet complete. BLM continued to collect and maintain resource information along program lines and records data along functional lines. In the 1980s, the Bureau faced the additional challenge of integrating its data and making it more accessible to a growing body of users.

The Bureau today maintains more than a billion land and mineral records on which it documents land ownership, status, and use in more than 200 offices throughout the country. BLM also maintains data on resources, such as wildlife habitats, mineral deposits, and cultural resources on public lands. Records and resource data are tied to specific locations on the ground via geographic coordinates generated from the Bureau's Public Land Survey System.

Under Director Robert F. Burford, BLM continued its early efforts to develop information resource management strategies, including standards for data, data bases, and information exchange between automated systems. Because the Bureau continued to decentralize its operations to field offices, it also planned to "distribute" its Land Information System to local users. Administrative systems, which were developed with 1970s technology, were also scheduled to be modernized. By the mid-1990s, the Bureau's target system will be implemented in field offices. In the meantime, existing ADP systems will be maintained.

The Bureau's Land Information System (LIS) will allow managers and the public to access and select information they need from any BLM office. The system will provide records information such as Master Title Plats on computer screens or printouts. The LIS will also create resource maps, allowing its users to select and overlay critical resource themes (locations of wildlife habitats, forests, mineral deposits, recreation areas, etc.) to determine potential conflicts in use. This information, combined with land and mineral records, will allow LIS users to pinpoint resource locations, identify land ownership and use, and more efficiently analyze issues—replacing the cumbersome, hard-to-locate, and difficult-to-update manual records and map overlay schemes employees and the public have had to use in the past.

BLM's Land

The Bureau of Land Management's goal for information management is to make effective use of automation in making resource management decisions and in providing information to the public. Data will be automated only if it is cost-effective to do so—in many cases, manual methods will be maintained. BLM will continue to maintain personal contacts with its clients and support traditional hands-on field work. The objectives of the Bureau's automation plan are to:


— Streamline BLM responses to public inquiries.

— Facilitate processing of applications and permits.

— Improve access to land records and BLM resource data.

— Ensure accuracy and consistency of data.

— Improve BLM's planning, tracking, and evaluation of its programs.

Since the mid-1970s, the BLM Service Center has developed and maintained more than 40 automated data systems, running the gamut from Bureauwide administrative systems to centralized records and resource systems. BLM State and District Offices have also developed ADP systems for specific uses, such as the Western Oregon Digital Data Base, which is used to prepare 10-year forest plans. In the late 1980s, microcomputers became common in BLM field offices, reducing their dependency on Honeywell Level-6 computers. From being a rare item in 1985, micros became a readily available tool for most BLM employees by 1988. BLM employees began to procure or write additional programs for specific local needs. These actions, however, pointed to the need for a unified automation plan in BLM—one that established data standards and common data bases as well as requirements for data exchange among systems.

BLM organizational structure in 1987.

by Robert F. Burford

Robert F. Burford
Robert F. Burford (Jennifer Reese)

Editor's Note: Robert Burford graduated from the Colorado School of Mines in 1944. He has worked as a mining engineer and has operated sheep and cattle ranches in northwest Colorado. He served three terms in the Colorado House of Representatives from 1974 to 1980, and was elected Speaker in 1979, before being selected as Director by President Reagan.

It has certainly been a privilege to serve as the Director of BLM during the Reagan Administration. Not to sound prematurely nostalgic, but I carry many fond memories of the experiences and the friendships derived from my tenure. I cannot take credit for all Bureau accomplishments while I have been Director—a great number were pent-up ideas of BLM career professionals that had gone long unimplemented. On that count, BLM could not have reached its goals without the creativity and dedication of its employees or from the cooperation of the public lands users of the '80s.

I do, however, take pride in seeing that BLM was set back on track. I was perhaps a bit more than a pacifist in the movement termed the "Sagebrush Rebellion." When I first came to Washington, our public lands were being managed, not as belonging to all the taxpayers of this nation, but more along the lines of private playgrounds for a number of special interests. The primary concern was the preservation of those playgrounds.

Lost had been the leadership to carry out BLM's mission to manage the public lands for a multiplicity of uses, not just a single use. The foundation for that mandate, the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA), tells us to base our management of the public lands on this concept and on the principle of sustained yield. So, while our stewardship of the public lands includes protection of wildlife habitat, cultural ruins and federal wilderness areas, these BLM-managed lands yield a rich bounty of timber, and livestock forage, plus significant deposits of oil, gas, coal, and other energy minerals.

Given BLM's jurisdiction over 270 million acres (about 46 percent of the federally-owned lands), that's a big job. There will always be a bit of one-upmanship, I imagine, between all the different users of the public lands—whether it's ranchers, hunters, oil riggers, backpackers, river rafters, or hardrock miners. They each think their use as always the most important one offered by our public lands. The magnitude and value of the public land resources inevitably lead to conflicting demands by the many users of the public lands.

The FLPMA mandate for multiple-use management is BLM's most powerful tool for reconciling these demands and viewpoints about how the public lands are to be administered. It would be a travesty for BLM to become a single-focus organization like the Park Service or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It's a balancing act to be sure, but while difficult, multiple-use provides enormous results for the nation. In 1987, for instance, BLM oversaw a leasing program that produced 148 million barrels of oil from public lands; yet, on the other hand, we designated new, more sensitive lands as Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACECs) that now total 5.1 million acres.

I set as my major goal a return to our congressional multiple use guidance. It was anticipated that with stricter attention to multiple use, conflicting user interests and desires would increase. To cope with this, I urged BLM employees to conduct their official public service duties in a manner that could best be described as a "good neighbor" approach. It was intended to place a greater emphasis and sensitivity to our working relationships with state and local governments and the public lands users themselves.

As I reflect upon past accomplishments, I have seen a strong bond develop between BLM and the public land users. This partnership has successfully reversed the lock-up trend of previous administrations and returned control from the chosen few to local governments that are more directly responsive to the public's needs.

One cooperative effort of which I am particularly proud is in BLM's land use planning process, where I have seen a dramatic improvement during the past eight years. BLM's resource management plans are the blueprints for future management; they are flexible and reflect the conditions of the land. Their effectiveness as a management tool comes from the close working relationship BLM people have established with public land users.

Another continuing challenge is automation. In the past few years, we have made a good start on modernization and automation—ALMRS, GIS, the Land Information System. The modernization effort is going to have a huge impact on BLM's ability to carry out its mission for many years to come. I hope the effort is ingrained enough by the time I leave here that its own momentum will carry it through the next administration, and the next one after that.

The elevation of energy and minerals to be co-equal with renewable resources was yet another key accomplishment. Our objective was to get the responsibility for onshore oil and gas operations moved from the former Geological Survey Conservation Division into BLM. As a result, we gained the responsibility for both subsurface and surface regulation. That was a good stroke for the land, and a good stroke for government. It did not make much sense that BLM was environmentally responsible for the surface of the land but not the subsurface. The fact that we were able to convince a couple of former Secretaries, James Watt and William Clark, that those two responsibilities should be melded together was an organizational coup.

In terms of personnel, feelings run deep and often mixed on the presence of political appointees within the ranks of the agency. Like it or not, this practice will continue to be a fact of life in Washington. I feel that BLM has been aided by this infusion of talent, men and women who brought with them different portfolios of accomplishment, because, by and large, they have been a complement to the careerist land manager's goals. Frankly, their presence will go far to assure that the Bureau of the future does not become an inbred, stagnant organization.

Will multiple use of the public lands survive? It can, and it should, but it will take more work and a renewed commitment from our elected officials. Multiple use, practiced wisely, is good for all Americans. Public lands are for the public to utilize and to enjoy. We have come too far to abandon our efforts now.

After considering the use of existing systems to automate land and mineral record operations, BLM began developing the Automated Land and Mineral Record System (ALMRS) in 1984. The Bureau's Field Committee, composed of BLM Associate State Directors, is supervising this effort. ALMRS became a presidential priority system in 1987, the same year BLM decided to "bundle" hardware and software procurements with commercial off-the-shelf products rather than designing a unique system. In 1988 BLM started a comprehensive modernization study and began identifying system requirements to integrate ALMRS, LIS, and other automated systems in the Bureau and to ensure that its automation-related procurements will be well coordinated.

by Mike Evans
Management Services

The Human Resource Development Committee (HRDC) is an operating subgroup of the Bureau Management Team (BMT). It is chartered to recommend BLM policy and strategic direction to the BMT for employee development and training, organization and management development, and other human resource development activities.

The HRDC has three executive members that meet with managers and employees from all organizational levels. This enables the members to gain perspective and technical input, and it allows employees to participate in the development of the policies that affect them.

The HRDC assists the BMT in improving workforce productivity, competence, and morale by building and maintaining forward thinking, evaluating existing policies and programs, and making recommendations regarding change. The HRDC also provides guidance to Bureau HRD officials and information to employees.

Most recently, the HRDC sponsored a major workshop that set in motion many initiatives for further integrating the workforce through a special focus on minorities and women; guided a major process to increase morale and agency pride; and is sponsoring a comprehensive career development program for all BLM managers and specialists.

The HRDC will continue to represent the collective commitment of the BMT to human resource development, and it will continue to learn from all BLM people in its pursuit of excellence in managing both natural and human resources.

The results of this work should transform BLM. According to ALMRS Project Manager Brian Bernard, in the mid-1990s a typical Bureau field office will do the same work it has always done—manage resources, process right-of-way applications, examine mining claims, and so forth. However, the tools it uses to do the job will be different. Computers and terminals will be used as commonly as they are today in banks and libraries. The result will be more time for employees to spend with individual members of the public and for on-the-ground field work, with less time spent locating case files or tracking down reports.


Public land management has become an increasingly complex science—and it will likely remain so. But despite BLM's increasing "procedural" requirements, land management remains an art as much as it is a science. Administrations, manuals, systems, and reorganizations have come and gone, but the role of individual employees in getting BLM's work done is as critical as ever.

The Bureau of Land Management today employs people in 197 occupational series—out of a total of 620 in the entire federal government. The growth and diversification of BLM's workforce is a good indicator of the responsibilities the Bureau has gained in serving the American public. Now that we have secured a mission—with a firm commitment to multiple use management of the public lands—we must implement the vision.

The Bureau values its traditions and values its employees. There have been plenty of challenges and controversies on the public lands since 1785, with battles won and lost, depending on your perspective, and more are yet to come. But opportunity also remains—for BLM employees, land users, and the American public at large, working together to manage the public lands for multiple use. And that's what makes the experience exciting and worthwhile. BLM's unique values have developed from its unique history. An example of these values can be found from a page taken from the recently completed strategic plan for the Bureau's recreation program, Recreation 2000:


We are proud of what BLM people have accomplished over the years. However, we encourage each of you to recommend and try new ideas and options to meet the challenges of the future.... Our organization can develop innovation through people by

— establishing an environment within the organization that supports creativity;

— rewarding and recognizing employees who have implemented unique and successful programs or developed unusual approaches to the solution of problems;

— showing employees a willingness to invest in their future—a concern for them on a personal basis;

— encouraging experimentation while discouraging the attitude that it "cannot be done;"

— developing an attitude in managers of encouragement of employees to try new ideas or different directions in management styles;

— implementing a "bottoms-up" style of management—where all are encouraged to contribute and participate;

— establishing procedures and policies that break down the bureaucratic tendency to stifle creativity;

— developing a policy that looks toward the future and at long term solutions to potential or real problems; and

— continually appraising and reappraising the direction and impact of policies with an eye on creative change to correct areas of concern.

We encourage managers and all employees to think, act, stimulate, encourage, and reward creativity, freedom of expression and the willingness to "give it a try."

Individual employees in the Bureau of Land Management and its predecessor agencies have clearly made a difference in getting things done on the public lands. This will remain true in the future. How we do our jobs influences millions of Americans.

BLM's history is America's history. How Americans view their public lands is reflected in the Bureau's evolving mission. Our history can and should be used as a guide to the future. History does repeat itself, and with this awareness, we should be well prepared to meet the challenges of the future.

Public land issues that have shaped BLM in the past will continue to influence our future. Major themes include:

development vs. preservation
multiple use vs. dominant use
states' rights vs. federal control
new programs vs. traditional uses

Balancing the needs, uses, and wishes of the American public on its lands is the Bureau's job. Working for BLM is exciting, frustrating at times, and, ultimately, rewarding. We hope that you've enjoyed this account of BLM's history and that you will be motivated to learn more.

Bureau of Land Management
Employees table
Budget table
Revenues table

Responsibility for offshore mineral leasing was transferred from BLM to the Minerals Management Service (MMS) in 1982. This leasing accounted for the bulk of the revenues until 1982
Robert Burford1981-1989
BLM-MMS Merger1982
Federal Oil and Gas Royalty Management Act1982


While it is too early for historical assessment of BLM and public land policies in the 1980s, there is no shortage of writings on the subject. Political scientists and natural resource professionals are increasingly focusing their attention on BLM and its administration of the public lands.

Books presenting collections of articles on public land issues best illustrate the growing interest in BLM. Among the available books, see Rethinking the Federal Lands (1984), edited by Sterling Brubaker; Public Lands and the U.S. Economy: Balancing Conservation and Development (1984), George Johnston and Peter Emerson, editors; Western Public Lands: The Management of Natural Resources in a time of Declining Federalism (1984) John Francis and Richard Ganzel, editors; Land Reform, American Style (1983), edited by Charles Geisler and Frank Popper; Federal Lands Policy (1987) Philip O. Foss, editor; and The Public Lands During the Remainder of the Twentieth Century: Planning, Law and Policy in the Federal Land Agencies (1987), by the University of Colorado's Natural Resources Law Center.

Books that talk about the public lands and their values include This Landis Your Land: The Struggle to Save America's Public Lands (1984) by Bernard Shanks; Lands of Brighter Destiny: The Public Lands of the American West (1986) Elizabeth Darby Junkin; These American Lands: Parks, Wilderness, and the Public Lands (1986), Dyan Zaslowsky and the Wilderness Society; and The Kingdom in the Country (1987) by James Conaway.

Another book that deals with the public lands is Sally K. Fairfax's and Carolyn Yale's Federal Lands: A Guide to Planning, Management, and State Revenues (1987).

The debate that surrounded management of federal grazing policy is illustrated by Gary Libecap, Locking Up the Federal Range: Federal Land Controls and Graziers (1981), which calls for privatization of the public lands, and Sacred Cows at the Public Trough (1983) by Denzel and Nancy Ferguson, which decries the influence of stockraisers who use the public range. The National Research Council and National Academy of Sciences' Developing Strategies for Rangeland Management (1984) is also of interest.

BLM wildlife management is addressed in the Audubon Wildlife Report of 1987 (1987), edited by Roger L. DiSilvestro, William J. Chandler, and Katherine Barton.

Mineral policy in the early 1980s is handled by Robert Nelson in his The Making of Federal Coal Policy (1983). A book critical of federal mineral policy and advocating reform is Public Domain—Private Dominion: A History of Public Mineral Policy in America (1985) by Carl Mayer and George Riley.

On Alaskan issues, see Frank Willis', Do Things Right the First Time: The National Park Service and the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980 (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).

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Last Updated: 08-Sep-2008