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Bureau of Land Management releases new guidelines for recreation and management

The Bureau of Land Management oversees more federal lands than any other agency and has traditionally favored uses such as oil and gas drilling over recreation.

But the agency has begun to chart a different course, and recently came out with new guidelines called a Blueprint for 21st Century Recreation.

The guidelines reflect a change in priorities for the BLM under the Biden administration and call for the agency to place more emphasis on conservation as Americans continue to spend time outdoors.

They also call for new funding and partnerships with tribes and nonprofits to help with management.

Aaron Weiss of the Center for Western Priorities said the report represents a shift to a more balanced approach in the agency's core principles, known as the multiple use doctrine.

In theory, the agency treats all uses, such as mining, logging, grazing and recreation, equally, but critics have long complained that it rarely does so in practice.

"It’s a step in acknowledging that the Bureau of Land Management is a true multiple use agency, and recreation is increasingly one of those uses," Weiss said.

He said the agency receives less funding than other public lands agencies on a per-acre basis, though it manages more acres, and that partnerships could be a way to offset that.

"So this is the Bureau of Land Management acknowledging there is increased pressure and desire for recreation on BLM lands so how is the agency going to meet that challenge in the coming decades," Weiss said.

Ron Dungan was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2020 to 2024.