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Friday, November 5, 2010

Federal Lands Managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Forest Service (FS): Issues in the 111th Congress

Ross W. Gorte, Coordinator
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

Carol Hardy Vincent, Coordinator
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

Kristina Alexander
Legislative Attorney

Marc Humphries
Analyst in Energy Policy

Congress, the Administration, and the courts are considering many issues related to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) public lands and the Forest Service (FS) national forests. Key issues include the following. 

Energy Resources.
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 (P.L. 109-58) led to new regulations on federal land leasing for oil and gas, oil shale, geothermal, and renewable energy. The Obama Administration is reviewing some rules and has withdrawn certain oil and gas leases in Utah. 

Hardrock Mining.
The General Mining Law of 1872 allows prospecting for minerals in open public domain lands. Several bills to reform aspects of the Law have been introduced to require royalties on production and establish a fund to clean up abandoned mines, among other changes. 

Wildfire Protection.
Various initiatives seek to protect communities from wildfires by expanding fuel reduction, and one related program was established in P.L. 111-11. Cost concerns led to new fire suppression accounts in the FLAME Act (Title V of P.L. 111-88). 

Wild Horses and Burros.
To reduce program costs and the number of wild horses and burros on the range, the Secretary of the Interior has proposed wild horse preserves and increased fertility controls. Legislation would prohibit the slaughter of healthy wild horses and burros and more. 

National Landscape Conservation System.
The 111
th Congress affirmed BLM’s 27 million-acre land protection system by establishing it legislatively (P.L. 111-11). Questions focus on funding and management for these specially protected conservation areas. 

P.L. 111-11 designated more than 2 million acres of wilderness, and more wilderness bills have been introduced. Many recommendations for wilderness areas are pending. Questions persist about wilderness review and managing wilderness study areas (WSAs). 

National Forest System Roadless Areas.
Debates persist about managing roadless areas for different values, and bills have been introduced to protect the areas. Regulations from previous administrations were challenged successfully, leading to potentially conflicting court rulings. 

FS NEPA Application.
The FS has altered its process for activity review under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), and has added activities that can be categorically excluded from reviews. Many of these changes and proposals have been challenged in court. 

BLM Land Sales.
The Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act authorizes the sale or exchange of BLM lands and use of the proceeds for certain land acquisitions. The authority was extended to July 25, 2011. H.R. 3339 would make the authorization permanent, while S. 1787 would extend it to 2020. 

National Forest Planning.
The National Forest Management Act of 1976 requires land and resource management plans for the national forests. Regulations from previous administrations have not been implemented, and the Obama Administration has begun a new rulemaking effort.

Date of Report: October 22, 2010
Number of Pages: 33
Order Number: R40237
Price: $29.95

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