by Bob Anderson

The Public Land Law Review Commission of the late 60’s made it clear that far too many acres of federal lands were off limits to anything that would disturb the surface, and accordingly, gave Congress in the passage of FLPMA, advice and direction on how to approach closures and withdrawals, including a procedure for Congressional reviews of large withdrawals.  You can’t have a discussion of Multiple Use unless you also talk about the philosophy of land closure, including withdrawals and even the Visual Resource Program.

My impression of today’s land management is that many managers and employees would rather “lock it up” than “manage it”.  Most of them are unaware of the reasons why there is a strict protocol in FLPMA about withdrawals; and the justification for oversight and approving land withdrawal applications in the Washington Office has not been as rigorous as it should be.  I don’t think the BLM has ever had a seminar or training module that would benefit new employees and managers on the ways multiple use and withdrawals are connected, except for those whose position is that of a Realty Specialist.

For example, who in the Washington Office is ensuring that the Departmental Manual (Chapter 1, 603 DM 1) is used in making a judgment on whether or not a withdrawal should be proposed in the Federal Register? The message in this manual is to point to a directive that was intended to make closures of federal land only for a very special purpose, as follows

“if a withdrawal is intended to protect a resource, a narrative describing how unique the resource is in terms of its rarity, significance, fragility, and irreplaceably will be made as well as an explanation of why existing law or regulation cannot protect or preserve the resource.”

Curt McVee, Retired Alaska State Director, perhaps said it best:

“It is a last resort and somewhat of an admission of failure that professional land managers, with over a century of scientific and technical development history behind them cannot devise methods for continuing multiple use…Multiple Use allows for the maximum number of uses, yet recognizes that sometimes there are dominant values … and other uses will be managed in recognition of these values”.

See the Congressional Definition of Multiple Use in Section 103(C) of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) of October 21, 1976. (43 USC § 1702(c)).

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