CO Honors 40 Years of Landmark Public-Lands Management Act
DENVER – On this day in 1976, President Gerald Ford signed legislation that changed the way the feds oversee millions of acres of land, requiring for the first time that they be managed with conservation in mind. Before the Federal Land Policy Management Act or FLPMA, the Bureau of Land Management often sold off acreage for oil and gas, mining and ranching.
John Sztukowski, a coordinator with the group Wild Connections says multiple-use management still allows for resource extraction, but also protects outdoor recreation areas.
"This gives the public a chance to comment on these local public lands and the uses that we cherish," he said. "You know, there are these special places in Colorado and throughout the West on BLM lands."
The BLM oversees one out of every ten acres of land in the nation, land owned by all Americans, including Colorado's Browns Canyon and Canyons of the Ancients National Monuments, and the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area.
Ken Rait, the director of U.S. Public Lands with The Pew Charitable Trusts, said a number of environmental threats to BLM lands persist across the West.
"Ninety percent of our public lands are open to oil and gas leasing, and 36 million acres are currently leased for oil and gas," he said. "Additionally, there are 340,000 1872 mining claims covering more than 7 million acres across our public land."
He added that BLM lands generate an estimated $2.8 billion a year for the economy.
Bruce Babbitt, the former secretary of the Interior, said these lands are much more valuable to the public when they remain open for outdoor pursuits.
"The recreational value, in terms of hunting, fishing, whitewater rafting, bird watching, camping, are really the biggest component of economic value to the surrounding communities and states," he said.
The BLM is currently preparing two resource impact reports as part of its Eastern Colorado Resource Management Plan, for 668,000 acres of public land and over six million acres of mineral holdings along the eastern plains.
Support for this reporting was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.