Federal Land Policy and Management Act

The Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) was enacted in 1976 for the purposes of establishing a unified, comprehensive, and systematic approach to managing and preserving public lands in a way that protects "the quality of scientific, scenic, historical, ecological, environmental, air and atmospheric, water resource, and archeological values." In the context of the FLPMA, public lands consist of federally-owned lands that have not been set aside for national forests and parks, wildlife preservation areas, military bases, or other federal purposes. The FLPMA is administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), an agency of the Department of the Interior, which manages some 261 million acres of public lands comprising 12 percent of the United States.

Under the FLPMA, the BLM is required to establish a planning process for the management of public lands that accommodates multiple uses of the land and its resources and achieves sustained yields of natural resources. As part of its management responsibilities, the BLM is required to periodically inventory all public lands and the resources on those lands. The FLPMA sets a goal of preserving and protecting public lands in their natural condition to the extent possible and to retain federal ownership of public lands unless it is in the national interest to dispose of them. Where it is appropriate to sell federal lands, the FLPMA requires that fair market value be received for the lands.

Uses of public lands that the BLM manages include commercial uses such as livestock grazing, mineral extraction, and logging; recreational uses such as fishing, hunting, birding, boating, hiking, biking, and off-roading; and conservation of biological, archeological, historical, and cultural resources. The Secretary of the Interior also has withdrawal authority, under which certain lands may be withdrawn from being sold or used under other federal statutes for the purposes of preserving the land or reserving the land for a particular use. The FLPMA provides detailed procedures for withdrawing land depending on the size of the area to be withdrawn and whether the withdrawal is being made on an emergency basis. Withdrawals under the FLPMA are temporary; thus, congressional action is necessary to make withdrawals permanent.

In developing land use plans, the FLPMA requires the BLM to:

- implement principles of multiple use of public lands and sustained yields of resources;

- use a systematic, interdisciplinary approach that incorporates the consideration of the physical, biological, economic, and other sciences;

- give priority to areas of critical environmental concern;

- consider the present and potential uses of public lands;

- consider the relative scarcity of the various values of public lands;

- weigh long-term and short-term public benefits;

- comply with applicable pollution control laws; and

- coordinate land-use planning with other federal and state agencies also involved in land-use planning.

Copyright 2007 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.