We have two major federal agencies that manage federal land, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) under the Agriculture Department and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) under the Interior Department. Why do we need both agencies? As far as I can tell the BLM does everything USFS does and more. It seems that one of these agencies is redundant.
The USFS manages 193 million acres of federal land using over 30,000 employees and a budget (FY 2011) of $5.38 billion. That works out to $27.87 per acre managed, $179,333 per employee, and 6,433 acres per employee.
The BLM manages 245 million surface acres, as well as 700 million acres of subsurface mineral estate, with about 10,000 employees, and a budget (FY 2011) of $1.1 billion. That works out to $4,49 per acre or counting mineral estate, $1.16 per acre managed, $110,000 per employee, and 24,500 acres per employee or counting mineral estate 94,500 acres per employee.
Maybe looking at just these numbers is not a fair comparison, but it is suggestive that we are getting more for our tax dollars with the BLM.
Both agencies manage theoretically for multiple use, including mining, logging, grazing and recreation. Both agencies manage forests and sell timber. USFS timber production has dramatically decreased since a peak in the 1980s due in part to the environmental quagmire of law suits and regulations. (See table and graph here.) I can’t find similar figures for the BLM.
The BLM manages the subsurface mineral rights under National Forests. Mining claims located on a National Forest must be registered with the BLM not the USFS. Exploration and mining are subject to 36 CFR 228(A) for USFS land or to 43 CFR 3809 for BLM land. Why two separate sets of regulations for the same activity?
The Department of the Interior includes the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Bureau of Reclamation, Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, National Park Service, Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Geological Survey. It would seem to be the logical agency to manage the National Forests.
I propose that the USFS be eliminated and its duties merged into the BLM in the Interior Department. That may result in more efficient management of our National Forests and elimination of a redundant bureaucracy.
Reorganization is justifiable solely on grounds of efficiency and economics, but there are other considerations. While the BLM has its faults (due mainly to the current Secretary of the Interior), it is generally easier to work with and approaches things on a more pragmatic and scientific basis. USFS seems to be guided by eco-extremist doctrine and anti-public attitude.
Even better would be for the feds to turn all national forests over to the states and let them manage the forests according to the local needs and philosophy.