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Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Lands and National Forests

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Publication Date: May 2006

Publisher(s): Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service

Series: IB10076

Topic: Environment (Parks, nature reserves, and open spaces)


The 109th Congress is considering issues related to the public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the national forests managed by the Forest Service (FS). The Administration is addressing issues through budgetary, regulatory, and other actions. Several key issues of congressional and administrative interest are covered here.

Energy Resources. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 affects energy development on federal lands in a variety of ways. Significant new regulations are expected in response to the law, including changes to the federal oil, gas, and coal leasing programs and application of environmental laws to certain energy-related agency actions.

Wild Horses and Burros. Controversial changes to the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 gave the agencies authority to sell certain old and unadoptable animals and removed the ban on selling wild horses and burros and their remains for commercial products. BLM has resumed animal sales with provisions to prevent their slaughter. Bills have been introduced to overturn the changes (H.R. 297/S. 576) and to foster adoptions and sales (H.R. 2993/S. 1273).

Wilderness. Many wilderness recommendations for federal lands are pending. Questions persist about wilderness review and managing wilderness study areas (WSAs). Bills to designate areas have been introduced, and the 109th Congress may address wilderness review and WSA protection.

Wildfire Protection. President Bush’s Healthy Forests Initiative, the Healthy Forests Restoration Act, and other provisions may help protect communities from wildfires by expediting fuel reduction. Some believe that more effort is needed; others are concerned that current and additional streamlining will increase timber sales and damage the environment. Legislation for research and post-fire rehabilitation of federal lands is being considered. The 109th Congress also has held hearings on fire protection and on litigation over fuel treatments and use of fire retardant.

Other Issues. The Administration and Congress are addressing other issues as well, including grazing management, hardrock mining, FS NEPA categorical exclusions, national forest roadless areas, federal land sales, and R.S. 2477 rights of way.