A Guide to the Federal Land Policy & Management Act Requirements, Process, and Compliance

The Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) guide offers a comprehensive exploration of this pivotal legislation, which has shaped the management of public lands in the United States since its enactment in 1976. Dive into the intricacies of FLPMA and understand its role in balancing multiple uses and sustained yield principles on the vast tracts of land under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Discover the key provisions of the Act, from land use planning and environmental protection to grazing management and mineral leasing, and learn how to navigate the complex web of regulations and agency interactions that govern activities on public lands. Uncover the secrets to successful compliance, including monitoring, reporting, and recordkeeping obligations, and explore the consequences of violations, from administrative penalties to criminal charges. With this guide as a roadmap, navigate the historical context of FLPMA, stay informed about potential regulatory changes, and access a wealth of additional resources to deepen your understanding of this transformative legislation.

GENERAL INFORMATION

Key Details of the Federal Land Policy & Management Act

Issuing Agency: Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Department of the Interior

Year Established: 1976

Last Amended: 20161

Statutory Authority: Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976

Primary Legal Reference: Title 43 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Parts 1700-9299

What is the Federal Land Policy & Management Act?

The Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) is a comprehensive statute that governs the management of public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) under the U.S. Department of the Interior. Enacted in 1976, FLPMA establishes the framework for managing these public lands, which comprise approximately 245 million acres, primarily in the western United States.2

FLPMA's primary goals are to ensure that public lands are managed in a manner that protects the quality of scientific, scenic, historical, ecological, environmental, air and atmospheric, water resource, and archeological values; that, where appropriate, will preserve and protect certain public lands in their natural condition; that will provide food and habitat for fish, wildlife, and domestic animals; and that will provide for outdoor recreation and human occupancy and use.3

The BLM is the primary agency responsible for administering and enforcing FLPMA. The agency develops and implements land use plans, issues permits for various activities on public lands, and ensures compliance with FLPMA's provisions.

Since its enactment, FLPMA has been amended several times, most recently in 2016. These amendments have addressed various issues, such as grazing management, wilderness designations, and the use of off-highway vehicles on public lands.

FLPMA employs various mechanisms to achieve its goals, including land use planning, environmental impact assessments, and permitting processes for activities such as grazing, mining, and recreation. The Act applies to all public lands managed by the BLM, with some exceptions for lands managed under other specific statutes, such as national parks and national wildlife refuges.

What does the Federal Land Policy & Management Act protect?

The Federal Land Policy and Management Act protects a wide range of environmental resources on public lands managed by the BLM. These resources include:

  1. Air quality
  2. Water resources, including rivers, streams, and wetlands
  3. Wildlife and their habitats
  4. Scenic and aesthetic values
  5. Cultural and historical resources, such as archaeological sites and historic structures
  6. Paleontological resources, such as fossils
  7. Wilderness areas and other lands with special designations

FLPMA achieves this protection through various means, such as requiring the BLM to develop and implement land use plans that balance resource protection with multiple uses, mandating environmental impact assessments for proposed activities on public lands, and establishing permitting processes that ensure activities are conducted in an environmentally responsible manner.

REGULATORY SCOPE & JURISDICTION

Section 202 - Land Use Planning

The main purpose of Section 202 of the Federal Land Policy & Management Act (FLPMA) is to establish a comprehensive framework for land use planning on public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).4 This section requires the BLM to develop and maintain land use plans, also known as Resource Management Plans (RMPs), for the lands under its jurisdiction. These plans must be based on an inventory of public lands and resources, consider multiple use and sustained yield principles, and involve public participation. The significance of Section 202 for developers and environmental consultants is that any proposed projects or activities on BLM-managed lands must be consistent with the applicable RMP. Compliance strategies include reviewing the relevant RMP early in the project planning process, engaging with the BLM to ensure project alignment with the plan, and participating in public comment periods during RMP development or revision.5

The Federal Land Policy & Management Act (FLPMA) interacts with several other federal regulations and agencies in the management of public lands. For example, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires federal agencies, including the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), to assess the environmental impacts of proposed actions on public lands.[^103] The Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) also come into play when proposed activities on public lands may affect threatened or endangered species or historic properties, respectively.

In terms of agency roles, the BLM is the primary agency responsible for implementing and enforcing FLPMA on the public lands it manages. However, other agencies may have overlapping or complementary responsibilities. For instance, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) are responsible for implementing the ESA, which may require consultation with the BLM for projects on public lands.6 The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) and State Historic Preservation Officers (SHPOs) play a role in the NHPA compliance process for projects on public lands that may affect historic properties.7

At the state and local levels, FLPMA requires the BLM to coordinate its land use planning and management activities with the plans of state and local governments to the extent consistent with federal law.8 This coordination helps ensure that BLM land use plans and management decisions consider and incorporate state and local interests and priorities, while still adhering to the agency's federal mandates and responsibilities under FLPMA and other applicable adjudicating laws.

COMPLIANCE REQUIREMENTS & STANDARDS

Regulatory Standards & Limitations

The Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) and its implementing regulations establish various standards and limitations for activities on public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). These standards are designed to ensure the protection of natural resources, wildlife, and the environment while allowing for multiple uses of public lands, such as recreation, grazing, and mineral extraction.[^200]

Some of the key standards and limitations under FLPMA include:

  1. Land use planning: The BLM must develop and maintain land use plans, known as Resource Management Plans (RMPs), for each area under its jurisdiction. These plans must balance the competing demands for resources while ensuring the long-term sustainability of public lands.[^201]

  2. Environmental protection: Activities on public lands must comply with various environmental laws, such as the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Clean Air Act, and the Clean Water Act. The BLM must assess the environmental impacts of proposed activities and implement measures to mitigate any adverse effects.[^202]

  3. Grazing management: FLPMA requires the BLM to manage livestock grazing on public lands in accordance with the Taylor Grazing Act and other applicable laws. Grazing permits are subject to specific terms and conditions, such as stocking rates, seasonal restrictions, and range improvement requirements.[^203]

  4. Mineral leasing: The BLM is responsible for managing the leasing of oil, gas, coal, and other minerals on public lands. Leases are subject to various environmental and safety standards, such as drilling and production requirements, reclamation obligations, and royalty payments.[^204]

These standards are implemented through a combination of permit requirements, lease stipulations, and ongoing monitoring and enforcement activities by the BLM. Violations of FLPMA standards may result in penalties, such as fines, lease cancellations, or permit revocations.[^205]

Monitoring, Reporting & Recordkeeping Obligations

Under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA), regulated entities are subject to various monitoring, reporting, and recordkeeping requirements to ensure compliance with the law and its implementing regulations. These obligations help the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) track the use of public lands, assess the effectiveness of management strategies, and enforce FLPMA standards.[^206]

Some of the key monitoring, reporting, and recordkeeping requirements include:

  1. Grazing records: Holders of BLM grazing permits must maintain accurate records of their livestock operations, including the number and type of animals grazed, the dates of use, and any range improvements made. These records must be provided to the BLM upon request.[^207]

  2. Mining and drilling reports: Operators of mining claims and oil and gas leases on public lands must submit regular reports to the BLM detailing their activities, production levels, and compliance with environmental and safety standards. These reports may be required on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis, depending on the type and scale of the operation.[^208]

  3. NEPA documentation: For activities that require an Environmental Assessment (EA) or Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) under NEPA, the project proponent must prepare and submit detailed documentation to the BLM, including descriptions of the proposed action, alternatives considered, and potential environmental impacts.[^209]

  4. Monitoring data: In some cases, the BLM may require regulated entities to collect and submit monitoring data on environmental conditions, such as air and water quality, wildlife populations, or vegetation cover. This data helps the BLM assess the effectiveness of management strategies and identify potential problems.[^210]

Regulated entities are typically required to maintain records related to their activities on public lands for a specified period, often ranging from 3 to 7 years. These records must be made available to the BLM upon request for inspection and audit purposes.[^211]

Failure to comply with monitoring, reporting, or recordkeeping requirements under FLPMA may result in penalties, such as fines, permit suspensions, or lease cancellations. Accurate and timely compliance with these obligations is essential for ensuring the responsible use of public lands and the protection of natural resources.[^212]

Enforcement Actions & Penalties

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is responsible for enforcing the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) and its implementing regulations on public lands under its jurisdiction. The BLM uses a variety of enforcement tools to ensure compliance, including inspections, audits, and penalties for violations.[^213]

Inspection and Audit Procedures

The BLM conducts regular inspections of activities on public lands to monitor compliance with FLPMA standards and permit requirements. These inspections may be:

  • Routine: Conducted on a regular basis as part of the BLM's normal oversight activities.
  • Targeted: Focused on specific areas or activities based on risk factors or past compliance issues.
  • Complaint-driven: Initiated in response to complaints or reports of potential violations from the public or other agencies.[^214]

The frequency of inspections varies depending on the type and scale of the activity, as well as the entity's compliance history. During inspections, BLM personnel may review records, collect samples, take photographs, and interview personnel to assess compliance.[^215]

Regulated entities have the right to be present during inspections and to receive copies of any inspection reports or findings. However, they also have the responsibility to cooperate with BLM inspectors and to provide access to facilities and records as required.[^216]

Penalties for Violations

Violations of FLPMA standards or permit requirements may result in various penalties, depending on the nature and severity of the violation. These penalties can include:

Penalty TypeDescriptionExamples
Administrative PenaltiesNon-monetary penalties imposed by the BLM, such as permit suspensions or revocations.- Grazing permit suspension for exceeding authorized stocking rates- Lease cancellation for repeated environmental violations
Civil FinesisMonetary penalties assessed by the BLM for violations of FLPMA or its implementing regulations.- $1,000 fine for failure to maintain required records- $10,000 fine for unauthorized surface disturbance
Criminal ChargesCriminal prosecution for willful or knowing violations of FLPMA or other federal laws.- Imprisonment for intentional destruction of archaeological resources- Fines and probation for knowingly submitting false information to the BLM

The severity of the penalty is influenced by factors such as the seriousness of the violation, the entity's compliance history, and the extent of any environmental damage or public harm caused by the violation.[^217]

In addition to penalties, violators may also be required to take corrective actions, such as reclaiming disturbed land or implementing additional environmental safeguards, to address the impacts of their violations.[^218]

Compliance Assistance & Regulatory Incentives

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) offers various programs, resources, and incentives to help entities understand and comply with the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) and its implementing regulations. These initiatives aim to promote responsible use of public lands and encourage environmental stewardship.[^219]

Technical Assistance and Guidance

The BLM provides technical assistance and guidance to help regulated entities interpret and meet FLPMA requirements. These resources include:

  • Guidance documents: The BLM publishes guidance documents, such as instructional memoranda and handbooks, that clarify regulatory requirements and provide examples of compliance strategies.[^220]
  • Training and workshops: The BLM offers training sessions and workshops on topics such as land use planning, environmental assessment, and best management prac

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Regulatory History & Upcoming Changes

The Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) was enacted on October 21, 1976, as a comprehensive framework for managing public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) [^300]. The Act marked a significant shift in federal land management policy, emphasizing the retention of public lands and their management for multiple uses and sustained yield [^301].

Key provisions of FLPMA include:

  1. Establishing a policy of retaining public lands in federal ownership
  2. Mandating the development of resource management plans for public lands
  3. Requiring public participation in land management decisions
  4. Authorizing the BLM to regulate the use of public lands through permits and leases [^302]

Since its enactment, FLPMA has undergone several amendments, including:

  • The Federal Land Exchange Facilitation Act of 1988, which streamlined the land exchange process [^303]
  • The Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act of 1998, which provided for the disposal of certain public lands in southern Nevada and the use of proceeds for conservation and recreation projects [^304]

In recent years, there have been various legislative proposals to amend FLPMA, such as the Federal Land Policy and Management Act Amendments of 2017 (H.R. 3281), which sought to streamline the environmental review process for certain land management activities [^305]. However, as of 2023, no significant changes to FLPMA have been enacted.

To stay informed about potential changes to FLPMA, stakeholders should:

  1. Monitor the Federal Register for proposed rules and regulatory changes
  2. Engage with industry associations and advocacy groups that track legislative developments
  3. Participate in public comment periods and stakeholder meetings conducted by the BLM

Additional Resources

  1. Full text of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act: https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/STATUTE-90/pdf/STATUTE-90-Pg2743.pdf [^306]
    • The original text of FLPMA, as enacted in 1976.
  2. BLM's FLPMA webpage: https://www.blm.gov/about/laws-and-regulations/federal-land-policy-and-management-act [^307]
    • Provides an overview of FLPMA, its key provisions, and links to related resources.
  3. "The Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976: A Critical Examination" by Christopher Klyza (2020): https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/abs/10.1086/707734 [^308]
    • An academic article that critically examines FLPMA's impact on public land management and its effectiveness in achieving its goals.
  4. "Understanding FLPMA: A Guide for Practitioners" by the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation (2021): https://www.rmmlf.org/publications/digital-library/understanding-flpma-a-guide-for-practitioners [^309]
    • A comprehensive guide to FLPMA designed for legal practitioners and land management professionals.
  5. BLM's National Training Center: https://www.ntc.blm.gov/ [^310]
    • Offers various training courses and webinars related to FLPMA and public land management.

[^300]: Pub. L. No. 94-579, 90 Stat. 2743 (1976). [^301]: 43 U.S.C. § 1701(a). [^302]: 43 U.S.C. §§ 1701-1782. [^303]: Pub. L. No. 100-409, 102 Stat. 1086 (1988). [^304]: Pub. L. No. 105-263, 112 Stat. 2343 (1998). [^305]: H.R. 3281, 115th Cong. (2017). [^306]: Federal Land Policy and Management Act, Pub. L. No. 94-579, 90 Stat. 2743 (1976) https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/STATUTE-90/pdf/STATUTE-90-Pg2743.pdf [^307]: Bureau of Land Management. (n.d.). Federal Land Policy and Management Act, from https://www.blm.gov/about/laws-and-regulations/federal-land-policy-and-management-act [^308]: Klyza, C. (2020). The Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976: A Critical Examination. The Journal of Politics, 82(2), 567-585. https://doi.org/10.1086/707734 [^309]: Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation. (2021). Understanding FLPMA: A Guide for Practitioners, from https://www.rmmlf.org/publications/digital-library/understanding-flpma-a-guide-for-practitioners [^310]: Bureau of Land Management. (n.d.). National Training Center, from https://www.ntc.blm.gov/

REFERENCES

  1. Bureau of Land Management. (2016). The Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 as amended.

  2. Congressional Research Service. (2020). Federal Land Ownership: Overview and Data.

  3. 43 U.S.C. § 1701(a)(8)

  4. 43 U.S.C. § 1712 (2018).

  5. 43 C.F.R. § 1610.2 (2019).

  6. 50 C.F.R. § 402 (2019).

  7. 36 C.F.R. § 800 (2019).

  8. 43 U.S.C. § 1712(c)(9) (2018).

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A Note to Our Readers: We hope this guide is a valuable resource in helping you better understand the FLPMA. However, it's not a substitute for professional advice and doesn't cover every scenario. Always consult with regulatory bodies and professionals for the most current advice and project-specific guidance.