Wilderness Management by the Multiple Use Agencies: What Makes the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management Different?

Article excerpt

I.   INTRODUCTION II.  POTENTIAL DISTINGUISHING FEATURES OF WILDERNESS      MANAGEMENT BY THE MULTIPLE USE AGENCIES      A. Physical Resource Characteristics         1. Objective Characteristics         2. Subjective Characteristics      B. History, Culture, and Organization         1. Pre- Wilderness Act Agency History         2. Timing and Impact of Wilderness Application         3. Agency Culture and Organization      C. Statutory Mandates         1. The Organic Statutes and the Wilderness Act         2. The Organic Statutes and Other Statutes      D. Agency Management Policies and Procedures         1. Agency Rules and Policies         2. Agency Planning Processes      E. Congressional Commitment      F. Judicial Treatment III. THE FUTURE OF WILDERNESS PRESERVATION ON THE      MULTIPLE USE LANDS IV.  CONCLUSION 


Each statute that governs management of the lands and resources owned by the federal government allows a different mix of uses. The organic statutes for the National Park Service (NPS) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) are often referred to as "dominant use" statutes, as they favor preservation, recreation, or fish and wildlife protection over extractive and commodity-production uses. (1) The statutes from which the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) derive their authority, by contrast, direct the agencies to manage for enumerated multiple uses, none of which predominates over the others in the land system as a whole. (2) All four land management agencies are subject to the Wilderness Act of 1964, (3) the strongest preservation oriented mandate of any of the federal land management laws. (4) When it applies, the Wilderness Act may displace the dominant or multiple use mandate that would have otherwise applied to a tract of federal land, had it not been designated as official wilderness. (5)

The application of the Wilderness Act to the land management agencies may differ according to the terms of the Wilderness Act itself. (6) Differences may also arise because of the degree to which the nature and scope of uses permitted by an agency's organic statutes are consistent with wilderness preservation, the manner in which each agency's organic statute interacts with the Wilderness Act, and the manner in which the agency exercises any discretion vested in it by the combination of its organic statute and the Wilderness Act. Nevertheless, given that both the Forest Service and the BLM are subject to virtually identical multiple use, sustained yield mandates under their organic statutes, (7) one might expect that administration of the Wilderness Act in national forests and on the BLM public lands would operate in similar fashion.

That expectation is not matched by the reality of implementation of the Wilderness Act on multiple use lands. Designation and management of wilderness areas by the two agencies subject to either dominant use or multiple use mandates may be closer to each other than they are to Wilderness Act implementation within the other land system category. (8) The histories of Forest Service and the BLM management of designated and potential wilderness areas, however, do not fully align. (9) As George Coggins and I have noted more broadly, wilderness areas on lands owned by the federal government are managed by agencies with their own traditions, missions, and governing standards, with "no pretense of uniformity, or even coordination." (10)

The most obvious and objective manifestation of the differences in wilderness management experiences between the two multiple use agencies is the acreage of wilderness areas they administer. The National Wilderness Preservation System (NWPS) includes 109.5 million acres spread across 757 wilderness areas. (11) Of those acres, 36.1 million acres of wilderness are located in 439 units of the National Forest System, while only 8.7 million acres of public lands (12) found in 221 units administered by the BLM are part of the NWPS. …