Foundation for America’s Public Lands launched

A new independent foundation will collaborate with the BLM on its management of public lands.
Credit: BLM Oregon & Washington

The U.S. Department of the Interior launched a new, independent foundation that will work with the Bureau of Land Management as well as public and private partners to help improve management of the 245 million acres of public lands that the agency oversees.

“It’s a privilege and an honor to be able to manage these lands for the benefit of current and future generations,” said current Secretary of the Interior, Deb Haaland, during a press conference. “And to do that right, we need to make sure that we have a Bureau of Land Management ready for the future, not just with the right personnel, structure and resources, but also with a support system of outside partners collaborating on its success.”

The U.S. Congress authorized nonprofit foundation in 2017. The BLM provided $3 million in seed money to establish an office and hire staff.

In announcing the foundation launch, Haaland named four members to the organization’s board of directors. Haaland will soon name five additional board members, completing what she envisions as a nine-member board. The BLM director, Tracy Stone-Manning, will serve as an ex officio board member.

Former Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, former BLM director Neil Kornze, Hispanic Access Foundation founder Maite Arce, and law professor Stacy Leeds were each named to the board last week.

In addition to providing the initial funding for the foundation, the BLM is also hiring a liaison in the BLM headquarters in D.C. who will work closely with the foundation’s board of directors and staff.

The three other major federal public land management agencies—the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Forest Service—already have affiliated foundations.

The BLM has faced numerous challenges in recent years, including the relocation of its headquarters office to Colorado and its subsequent return to Washington, D.C., as well as the often controversial management of wild horses and burros, and high vacancy rates in agency positions across the country. “Having a foundation that will work directly with us, on our particular issues, mandates and challenges, will make an enormous difference in our ability to do our work well,” Stone-Manning said.

Congress originally created the foundation in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017, but the previous administration did not take any action to launch it. The legislation calls on the foundation to: (1) encourage, accept and administer private gifts of money, real and personal property; and in-kind services for the benefit of, or in connection with, the activities and services of the Bureau of Land Management; (2) carry out activities that advance the purposes for which public land is administered; (3) carry out and encourage educational, technical, scientific and other assistance or activities that support the BLM mission; and (4) assist the BLM with challenges that could be better addressed with the support of a foundation, including reclamation and conservation activities, activities relating to wild free roaming horses and burros, and the stewardship of cultural and archaeological treasures on public land.

Laura BiesLaura Bies is a government relations contractor and freelance writer for The Wildlife Society. She has a B.S. in Environmental Science and a law degree from George Washington University. Laura has worked with The Wildlife Society since 2005. Read more of Laura’s articles.

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