Federal Land Policy and Management Act

The Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA), passed by Congress in 1976, governs how the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) manages the public lands of the United States. The guiding principles for public land management set out in the FLPMA are threefold:

  • multiple use, meaning balancing the development of renewable and nonrenewable resources
  • conservation and sustained yield, meaning managing the use of resources to ensure the future productivity of the land, and
  • environmental protection.

With its passage of the FLPMA, Congress recognized the value of public lands and formally declared that, as a policy, all remaining public lands would be retained by the federal government and made private only if the national interest would be served by doing so. The Act provided a framework in which public lands could be managed in perpetuity for the benefit of present and future generations and was the culmination of a change in the federal governments approach to public lands.

Up until the late 1800s, the federal governments policy regarding public lands was to dispose of such lands and make it available for settlement and private development. By the 1870s, after reports of wasted resources and other problems with the distribution of public lands, there was a growing awareness that certain lands should be held in public trust. The establishment of Yellowstone National Park in 1872 and the creation of forest reserves by the General Land Reform Act in 1891 marked the beginning of the change in congressional thinking that federal lands should be held in trust and kept from private ownership.


 Federal Land Policy and Management Act



Sec. 101. [43 U.S.C. 1701 note] This Act may be cited as the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976.


Sec. 102. [43 U.S.C. 1701] (a) The Congress declares that it is the policy of the United States that

(1) the public lands be retained in Federal ownership, unless as a result of the land use planning procedure provided for in this Act, it is determined that disposal of a particular parcel will serve the national interest;

(2) the national interest will be best realized if the public lands and their resources are periodically and systematically inventoried and their present and future use is projected through a land use planning process coordinated with other Federal and State planning efforts;

(3) public lands not previously designated for any specific use and all existing classifications of public lands that were effected by executive action or statute before the date of enactment of this Act be reviewed in accordance with the provisions of this Act;

(4) the Congress exercise its constitutional authority to withdraw or otherwise designate or dedicate Federal lands for specified purposes and that Congress delineate the extent to which the Executive may withdraw lands without legislative action;

(5) in administering public land statutes and exercising discretionary authority granted by them, the Secretary be required to establish comprehensive rules and regulations after considering the views of the general public; and to structure adjudication procedures to assure adequate third party participation, objective administrative review of initial decisions, and expeditious decision making;

(6) judicial review of public land adjudication decisions be provided by law;

(7) 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;

(8) the public lands be managed in a manner that will protect the quality of scientific, scenic, historical, ecological, environmental, air and atmospheric, water resource, and archeological values; that, where appropriate, will preserve and protect certain public lands in their natural condition; that will provide food and habitat for fish and wildlife and domestic animals; and that will pro-vide for outdoor recreation and human occupancy and use;

(9) the United States receive fair market value of the use of the public lands and their resources unless otherwise provided for by statute;

(10) uniform procedures for any disposal of public land, acquisition of non-Federal land for public purposes, and the exchange of such lands be established by statute, requiring each disposal, acquisition, and exchange to be consistent with the prescribed mission of the department or agency involved, and reserving to the Congress review of disposals in excess of a specified acreage;

(11) regulations and plans for the protection of public land areas of critical environmental concern be promptly developed;

(12) the public lands be managed in a manner which recognizes the Nations need for domestic sources of minerals, food, timber, and fiber from the public lands including implementation of the Mining and Minerals Policy Act of 1970 (84 Stat. 1876, 30 U.S.C. 21a) as it pertains to the public lands; and

(13) the Federal Government should, on a basis equitable to both the Federal and local taxpayer, provide for payments to compensate States and local governments for burdens created as a result of the immunity of Federal lands from State and local taxation.


To read the rest of the text of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, go to Cornell University Law Schools Legal Information Institute at http://www.law.cornell.edu/.

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