HTML _ 95-117 - The Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management: History and Analysis of Merger Proposals
7-Nov-1995; Ross Gorte Betsy Cody; 18 p.

Abstract: Two Federal agencies currently manage Federal lands for multiple uses. The Forest Service in the Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in the Department of the Interior both sell timber, permit livestock grazing, administer recreational uses, allow mining and mineral leasing on most lands, protect watersheds, provide for fish and wildlife habitats, and manage wilderness areas. The similar management authorities and frequently adjacent locations of the agencies' lands have led to numerous proposals to consolidate these agencies. Proposals date back to 1911 (before the BLM existed, as such), and have been made under Presidents Taft, Harding, Hoover, Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Nixon, and Carter. In an attempt to improve the administration of Federal lands, President Reagan proposed an exchange of some lands and personnel between the agencies, thus again raising the concept of a natural resources reorganization. Proponents and critics have cited various benefits and problems associated with merging the BLM and the Forest Service. Cost savings from reduced duplication are a commonly cited benefit, with estimates of savings ranging as high as $100 million annually. In addition, it is argued that a merger would improve Federal land management and service to the public by providing a more comprehensive structure and ¨one-stop shopping¨ with uniform policies for users. However, a merger could also disrupt current programs and harm agency morale, and would require some personnel and administrative costs to implement. Furthermore, the cost savings and improved service would only occur if the laws and regulations governing the agencies' policies and practices were consolidated and harmonized, but such a change would likely be politically difficult. Finally, some question whether changes in the current structure are needed, since many observers argue that the current system is working adequately and that merging the agencies could produce a very large, unresponsive agency. [read report]

Topics: Forests

Start Over