January 12, 2000
Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Dept. of Interior
The The Bureau of Land Management today announced that it will develop a national strategy for ensuring environmentally responsible Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) use on BLM-managed public lands. Working in partnership with all interested parties and the general public, the BLM will develop the strategy to address land-management issues prompted by the growing popularity of OHV use.
BLM Acting Director Tom Fry said, "The strategy we will develop is aimed at recognizing the interests of OHV users while protecting environmentally sensitive areas on the public lands. The strategy will also enable the BLM to spend scarce funding resources on managing OHV use rather than on OHV-related litigation, protests, appeals, and Freedom of Information Act requests."
Fry added, "Our agency is developing this strategy at a time when Westerners recognize the crucial role that BLM lands play in maintaining the appeal and lifestyle of their fast-growing, fast-changing region. Now more than ever, the public is turning to BLM-managed land as the final frontier for wide open space, as an outdoor recreational playground, and as a sanctuary from the stresses of urban life. The OHV management strategy will recognize the importance of each of those values."
Henri Bisson, the BLM's Assistant Director for Planning and Renewable Resources, will lead the agency's effort in crafting the national OHV strategy. "The strategy to be developed will reflect substantial input from OHV user groups, environmental organizations, State and local agencies, and the general public," Bisson said. "Once the strategy is written, the BLM's next challenge will be to implement it. I am confident that with adequate resources and the help of our public and private partners, we can achieve our on-the-ground goals."
The BLM is developing its national strategy in response to the convergence of several factors that have made OHV use a more pressing issue in the West, where the region's rapid growth and changing demographics are affecting public land resources. Off Highway Vehicles and other forms of recreational transportation - sport utility vehicles, motorcycles, and mountain bikes - are more popular than ever before. Much of this use is occurring on BLM-managed lands that, as a result of urban and suburban sprawl, are near by or even adjacent to numerous communities and subdivisions. These communities are both convenient to and affected by activities on BLM lands, adding to the complexity of the Bureau's land-management decisions.
Moreover, OHV use is taking place on land designated by the BLM as "open" to cross-country travel based on land-management plans that the Bureau drew up in the 1970s and 1980s, when OHV use was comparatively small. These land-management plans are outdated not only because of increased OHV use, but also because of the rise in the number of threatened and endangered species found on BLM lands. In fact, the number of threatened and endangered species of animals and plants on BLM lands rose from more than 50 in 1982 to nearly 300 in 1997. What is more, the BLM's budget-related resources - including the number of recreational specialists and law enforcement personnel - have not kept pace with the past decade's growth in OHV use. All of these factors, plus litigation over OHV management issues, have created the need for a national OHV management strategy.
The BLM, an agency of the U.S. Department of the Interior, manages more land -- 264 million surface acres -- than any other Federal agency. Most of this public land is located in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The Bureau, which has a budget of $1.2 billion and a workforce of about 9,000 employees, also administers more than 560 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The BLM preserves open space by managing the public lands for multiple uses, including outdoor recreation, livestock grazing, and mining, and by conserving natural, historical, cultural, and other resources found on the public lands.
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