facebook-pixel

Letter: Build up BLM to protect our finest lands

(Photo Courtesy Ray Bloxham, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance) The oil and gas industry has asked the BLM to sell oil and gas leases on at least 100,000 acres of scenic public land near Canyonlands and Arches national parks, including parts of Hatch Canyon.

March temperatures are perfect for mountain biking, rock climbing, and river rafting trips, so increasingly the state is a spring break destination for college kids and families. The record-breaking number of visitors to Utah in 2020 indicates that despite COVID-19, there will also be a record number of visits this year. Many of these visitors will spend time enjoying Utah’s 22.9 million acres of public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

Yet, decision-makers in Washington have increasingly neglected to staff the BLM fully. PEER recently dug into employment numbers at the BLM and found that relative to other federal land management agencies like the Forest Service and Park Service, BLM is understaffed. When comparing staffing between Utah National Park Arches and Utah BLM, the difference is shocking. Arches has approximately one Park Service employee for every 1,530 acres, while BLM has one employee for every 37,377 acres.

BLM staff at the Moab Field Office are managing similar resources to those at the Park five miles down the road. Plus, BLM manages dispersed camping, off-highway vehicle use, grazing, and mining. The Moab Field Office expects to see 3 million visitors a year. One employee stated, “it seems that every employee wears five hats.”

In a recent survey, PEER found that more than three-quarters of the employees do not believe that BLM has the staffing or resources to accomplish its mission. Since the Biden administration has committed to sweeping conservation proposals like conserving 30 percent of the nation’s land and water by 2030—top on its agenda should be to make sure the BLM is fully staffed so that visitors to BLM lands have a safe and enjoyable experience.

March temperatures are perfect for mountain biking, rock climbing, and river rafting trips, so increasingly the state is a spring break destination for college kids and families. The record-breaking number of visitors to Utah in 2020 indicates that despite COVID-19, there will also be a record number of visits this year. Many of these visitors will spend time enjoying Utah’s 22.9 million acres of public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

Yet, decision-makers in Washington have increasingly neglected to staff the BLM fully. PEER recently dug into employment numbers at the BLM and found that relative to other federal land management agencies like the Forest Service and Park Service, BLM is understaffed. When comparing staffing between Utah National Park Arches and Utah BLM, the difference is shocking. Arches has approximately one Park Service employee for every 1,530 acres, while BLM has one employee for every 37,377 acres.

BLM staff at the Moab Field Office are managing similar resources to those at the Park five miles down the road. Plus, BLM manages dispersed camping, off-highway vehicle use, grazing, and mining. The Moab Field Office expects to see 3 million visitors a year. One employee stated, “it seems that every employee wears five hats.”

In a recent survey, PEER found that more than three-quarters of the employees do not believe that BLM has the staffing or resources to accomplish its mission. Since the Biden administration has committed to sweeping conservation proposals like conserving 30 percent of the nation’s land and water by 2030—top on its agenda should be to make sure the BLM is fully staffed so that visitors to BLM lands have a safe and enjoyable experience.

Chandra Rosenthal, Rocky Mountain Office Director Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, Rocky Mountain Office Director, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility

Submit a letter to the editor

Return to Story