[Public Land Statistics, 1996]
[From the U.S. Government Printing Office, www.gpo.gov]


The total area of the 50 States is 2.3 billion acres. The Federal Government has, at various times in U.S. history, held title to about 80 percent of the Nation's total area (Table 1-1). Today, Federal civil and defense agencies administer about 660 million acres, or about 29 percent of the total area (Table 1-3).

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is the custodian of the public lands records for the United States Government. Over the years, the BLM has developed a land records system using a microfilming process. BLM is now in the process of automating land records. Automation will streamline the BLM's responses to public inquiries, facilitate processing applications and permits, improve access to land records and resource data, ensure accuracy and consistency of data, and improve planning, tracking, and evaluation of uses on the public lands.

The BLM also has National responsibility for legal identification of all Federal land boundaries and the maintenance of the Public Land Survey System. Cadastral surveys are an integral component of land title for the Federal government, including the Alaska land conveyance program. BLM's 1994 and 1995 survey emphasis supported land and realty actions (i.e., land exchanges/acquisition, trespass abatement) and boundary surveys of various special land management designations such as Wilderness, Wild and Scenic Rivers, and National Conservation Areas.

The BLM has exclusive jurisdiction for about 40 percent, or 264 million acres, of the federally owned lands (Table 1-4). Approximately one-third of this area is in the State of Alaska. Other major land-holding agencies in the Department of the Interior include the National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, and Bureau of Reclamation.

Up to the present, title to approximately 1.1 billion acres has been transferred to individual citizens, businesses, and non-Federal governmental organizations under Federal legal authority generally referred to as the "land laws." Substantial portions, amounting to over 287 million acres, have been removed from Federal ownership under the authority of the Homestead Laws. Another 328 million acres have been granted to States to help support public schools, develop transportation systems, and promote general economic development (Table 1-2).

In Western Oregon, an area of approximately 2.6 million acres comprises the Oregon and California (O&C) revested lands (Table 1-5). Originally public domain, this acreage was reconveyed and revested to the United States from grants made to private concerns to construct the Oregon and California Railroad and the Coos Bay Military Wagon Road.

Use of the public lands has changed throughout our Nation's history and continues to evolve. Originally viewed as the Great American Desert, these lands over time came to be regarded primarily as a source of livestock forage, timber, and energy and mineral resources. Today, the public lands are valued more and more for their environmental resources, the recreational opportunities they offer, the cultural resources they contain, and, in an increasingly urban world, their vast open spaces.

To meet today's changing and diverse demands, the BLM is changing its management of the public lands. To maintain the health of the public lands, the agency is taking a "big picture" or landscape approach to land management. This promotes both biological diversity on the public lands and sustainable development of their resources. BLM's mandate under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA) is to manage the public lands for multiple use, while protecting the long-term health of the land.