It’s FLPMA’s 40th anniversary! Wait what…what is a FLMPA and do we still use it?
More importantly -- why should we care?
FLPMA (pronounced Flip-ma), is shorthand for the Federal Land Policy and Management Act. It was an act of Congress that President Gerald Ford signed into law on October 21, 1976, and it is the law that defines multiple use and sustained yield as our approach to managing public lands.
It is often called the BLM’s organic act, since it gives us the authority to do a lot of the things we do on a daily basis.
Again, why should we care? Well there’s SIX – yes six reasons!
1. FLPMA mandates the permanent federal ownership of public lands.
FLPMA makes it law that public lands are retained in Federal ownership.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but until FLPMA became law, there was still a question about whether or not public lands were to be kept in federal control or made available for sale. Interestingly, FLPMA repealed President Lincoln’s Homesteading Act of 1864, ending homesteading.
FLMPA tells BLM to do lots of stuff with public land – AKA “multiple use.
Protecting scientific, scenic, historical, ecological, environmental, air and atmospheric, water resource, and archaeological values; whew that’s a mouthful.
Provide food and habitat for fish and wildlife and domestic animals.
Provide for outdoor recreation and other human uses too. Like timber, minerals, and grazing.
2. FLPMA repealed more than 1,000 out-of-date land management statutes (really 1,000), replacing them with new policies, including a new planning system.
Sure, it didn’t affect the big statutes like the O & C Act in Oregon, the Mineral Leasing Act, the Mining Law of 1872, the Soil Conservation Act, and about 1,000 others, but it did repeal and replace many that lingered from the days of the Grazing Service and General Land Office.
3. FLPMA mandated a new planning system for us – one with lots of public participation, not just the involvement of those who may be directly affected by a decision.
It also authorized citizen advisory councils - known today as RACs
4. FLMPA changed how we manage mining and grazing on public lands.
For example, FLPMA declared that claims could be invalidated if miners didn’t file copies of their claims and submit annual reports of their work, allowing the BLM – and other miners – to better know who was doing what where.
FLPMA also required a new study of grazing fees and standardized grazing permit policies. Grazing advisory boards were also focused on providing input into the development of allotment management plans and how range improvement funds were distributed.
5. FLPMA created new protections for public lands. That’s pretty cool.
For example, FLPMA brought the Wilderness Act of 1964 to the public lands. The BLM now manages nine wilderness areas and 88 wilderness study areas in Oregon and Washington.
Contributing even more acronyms to our repertoire, FLPMA also created ACECs (Areas of Critical Environmental Concern) “where special management attention is required . . . to protect and prevent irreparable damage to important historic, cultural, or scenic values, fish and wildlife resources, or other natural systems or processes, or to protect life and safety from natural hazards.” Today, Oregon and Washington host 195 ACEC parcels, totaling almost 860,000 acres.
In addition, FLPMA granted law enforcement authority to the BLM, starting with uniformed park rangers to serve in the California desert’s public lands.
6. FLPMA helped to usher in a cultural change in the BLM.
BLM expanded its workforce beyond a focus on forestry and range conservation and created new professional positions in areas such as planning, recreation, archaeology, and wildlife biology.
There are many more provisions within FLPMA, as well as several amendments made in later years. Of particular note is the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area, created in 1980 as an amendment to FLPMA.
FLPMA helped solve a lot of BLM's challenges in the 1970s, but others remain today. Nevertheless, most of the work we do today can trace its authority back to FLPMA.
As Senator Henry M. "Scoop" Jackson noted, "the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 represents a landmark achievement in the management of the public lands of the United States. For the first time in the long history of the public lands, one law provides comprehensive authority and guidelines for [their] administration."