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by Brian Hawthorne, BRC Public Lands Director

Beginning in the early 1970s, Congress and the American people began a debate on whether or not to change national policy for vast areas of the west known as "public lands". Congress wanted to change the policy from "disposal" to "retention". This policy shift meant the Federal government would stop holding lands until they were sold (or otherwise transferred to the states), and would retain and manage the lands for the benefit of the general public.

Naturally, western states were concerned. Entire communities relied upon access to resources existing on adjacent public lands. Indeed, western custom and culture grew from a tradition of open access and use of public lands. Many felt the "retention" policy would let unaccountable bureaucrats, living far away in the ivory halls of the capitol, unduly influence the lives and livelihoods of citizens in the west.
In 1976, Congress struck a "bargain" with those western states. The "bargain", expressed in its most simplistic terms, was this: The western states would not oppose the retention of these lands if the Federal Government would manage them under multiple use/sustained yield principles, protect valid existing rights, limit wilderness review and consider the needs and concerns of adjacent communities when formulating land use plans.
These important provisions are the "four pillars of FLPMA (Federal Land Policy and Management Act)," and they are the critical components in the "bargain."First, and perhaps most important, was the mandate to manage lands under the principles of Multiple Use. The Section 202, subsection (c)(1), specifically requires development and revision of land use plans on the basis of "principles of multiple use and sustained yield." FLPMA section 102(a)(7) also specifically requires that goals and objectives be established by law as guidelines for public land use planning, and that management be on the basis of multiple use and sustained yield unless otherwise specified by law.
Second was the preservation of valid existing rights, including grazing rights, mining claims, oil and gas leases, water rights and rights of access granted pursuant to R.S. 2477.
The third "pillar" was specific instructions to the Secretary of the Interior to formulate land use plans that are consistent with State and local plans " the maximum extent he finds consistent with Federal law and the purposes of this Act." This piller includes provisions to coordinate land use inventory, planning and management activities not only with other federal agencies, but specifically with agencies of the State and local government.
The fourth pillar of FLPMA consists of very specific instructions regarding Wilderness. Those instructions are contained in Section 603 of FLPMA, wherein Congress instructed the agency to inventory all of their lands, identify which were definitely not of wilderness quality, and then begin an intensive inventory and analysis to determine which of the remaining lands would be recommended for inclusion into the National Wilderness Preservation System.
Congress even set a deadline for the completion of this task. A critical part of the "bargain" was that the FLPMA sets no mandates and no process requirements for engaging in an ongoing, never ending wilderness inventory and review. Once the "603 Process" was completed, the agency would be finished with wilderness inventory and review. Congress and the American People would then decide which lands to include in the National Wilderness Preservation System.
The majority of the motorized recreationists today firmly believe the original precepts of FLPMA are genius. Sure, radical environmentalists have chipped away at these pillars one by one, but Congress still gave your local BLM planner very specific instructions regarding things like Wilderness, recreation, and relationships with adjacent communities. It's called multiple use and sustained yield, and we intend to hold them to it.
That's why BRC keeps an eye on your local BLM planning team, and why you, as a concerned recreationist, have every right to sound out against any planning that goes against these precepts. Don't be afraid to speak up, and if you have any questions or concerns let us know.
--For questions or comments on this article, please contacted the BlueRibbon Coalition, 4555 Burley Drive, Suite A, Pocatello, ID 83202-1921. Phone: 208 237-1008, Fax: 208-237-9424. Email <>

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