Most current land-use concerns relate to federal lands controlled by four federal agencies: Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The following is a brief description of the major players.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), part of the Department of the Interior, administers the bulk of federal lands. The BLM manages about 262 million acres of federal land. This is about one-eighth of all of the land in the United States and 42 percent of all federal lands. The BLM was initially created to manage range lands for use by mining, grazing, oil and gas development. Its role was expanded in 1976 to include recreation and wilderness. It manages 2 percent of the "National Wilderness Preservation System" (161 separate wilderness areas) along with a large amount of land that has been reserved as "potential" wilderness, also known as Wilderness Study Areas.
The U.S. Forest Service (USFS), part of the Department of Agriculture, oversees the National Forests. Among the purposes of its supervision are ecological protection, resource management and public access. The USFS is responsible for managing about 191 million acres (about the size of Texas) comprising 155 national forests and 20 grasslands, which is 30 percent of all federal lands. Within that acreage, it manages 18 percent of the National Wilderness Preservation System (406 separate wilderness areas) along with a large amount of land that has been reserved as potential wilderness.
The National Park Service (NPS), part of the Department of the Interior, manages land set aside for its natural, historical and cultural resources and for recreation. This includes 51 national parks and more than 300 national monuments, historic sites, memorials, seashores, and battlefields. The NPS manages about 81 million acres of federal land, which is 13 percent of all federal lands. Within that acreage, it manages 56 percent of the National Wilderness Preservation System (54 separate wilderness areas) along with a large amount of land that has been reserved as potential wilderness.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), part of the Department of the Interior, conserves the nation's wild animals and their habitats by managing a system of more than 500 national wildlife refuges and other areas, totaling about 91 million acres of land and water. The FWS manages 15 percent of all federal land, of which 22 percent is part of the National Wilderness Preservation System (71 separate wilderness areas) along with a large amount of land that has been reserved as potential wilderness. The FWS also administers the Endangered Species Act, making decisions on whether there should be public access to certain lands.
OHV Land Use Policies
BLM: In 2001, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued a "National Management Strategy for Motorized OHV Use," which recognizes motorized recreational as a legitimate use of public land. Under the program, public lands are designated as "open," "limited," or "closed" to OHV use. "Open" areas are areas where all types of vehicle use are permitted at all times, anywhere in the area. "Limited" areas are lands where OHV use is restricted at certain times or use is only authorized on designated routes, and "Closed" areas are lands where OHV use is prohibited. In 2005, the BLM revised its Land Use Planning Handbook to incorporate specific guidance for "Comprehensive Travel and Transportation Management." In December 2007, the BLM sent guidance to its field offices to further clarify travel management decisions in the planning process. It noted that continued designation of large areas as open to unregulated "cross-country travel" was not a practical management strategy (although still permitted), and that field offices should direct OHV travel to designated roads and trails. For the 258 million acres of BLM administered lands, the BLM's current OHV designation status is approximately 32 percent "open," 4 percent "closed," 48 percent "limited," and 16 percent "undesignated." Included among the "open" areas, BLM manages approximately 100 specifically designated OHV riding areas.