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Unpublished Paper
The Birth, Death, and Afterlife of the Wild Lands Policy: the Evolution of the Bureau of Land Management’s Authority to Protect Wilderness Values
ExpressO (2013)
  • Olivia Brumfield
Abstract

Since the enactment of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) in 1976, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has had a troubled relationship with wild lands, the nation’s last remaining places with wilderness characteristics. Although for twenty-five years BLM recognized wilderness values as a resource it must balance and could protect consistent with the agency’s multiple use mandate, in 2003 BLM largely disclaimed that interpretation, potentially imperiling future protection of wild lands that were not designated as wilderness or wilderness study areas. Since then, the agency has made incremental – but potentially powerful – steps toward reclaiming a view of its authority that could afford more protection for yet-undesignated wild lands. Although BLM’s current policy does not authorize as strong “default” protection for wild lands as before 2003, it does direct the agency to survey and consider wild lands in all land plans and project approvals.

This article traces the evolution of BLM’s interpretation of its duty and authority under FLPMA to manage lands with wilderness characteristics. The article concludes that, although BLM’s view of its responsibility toward yet-undesignated wilderness has narrowed, the recent controversial Wild Lands Policy and ensuing agency guidance re-acknowledge wilderness values as a legitimate FLPMA resource to be protected. However, whether and how the agency will use its reclaimed authority to meaningfully protect the nation’s remaining vulnerable federal public wild lands remains uncertain.

Keywords
  • public lands,
  • wilderness,
  • wild lands,
  • environmental law,
  • natural resources
Publication Date
August 9, 2013
Citation Information
Olivia Brumfield. "The Birth, Death, and Afterlife of the Wild Lands Policy: the Evolution of the Bureau of Land Management’s Authority to Protect Wilderness Values" ExpressO (2013)
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/michael_blumm/19/