Millions of acres of public lands are managed by a few agencies. Knowing what agency is responsible for will help you when you are planning a trip or have a question.
When I was in college, my mother used to try and explain to others what I was doing. As I listened to one -sided conversations, I realized that she didn’t have a clue about my career choice. I was working summers for Utah’s Division of Wildlife Resources but she routinely told people I was a forest ranger. After enough chiding, she finally posted a 3x5 cheat card next to the phone with the correct information.
I thought of this as I compiled a long list of agency contacts to post on my website. I saw that her confusion was justified as there are multiple agencies that protect, regulate and manage the natural resources that Americans are so blessed with. I know my mother would have appreciated some clarification about what some of these agencies do and perhaps you would too.
While there are a lot of agencies, there are just a few big players. The field of governmental resource management is divided into two categories. The first is federal agencies. The three main federal agencies are the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and Fish and Wildlife Service. They are responsible for the management of most federally owned land.
Forest Service, Department of Agriculture. The Forest Service traces its history back to 1876 but officially started as an agency in 1905. They manage and protect 193 million acres of national forests and grasslands. The agency’s mission is “to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.”
Bureau of Land Management, US Department of Interior. Usually referred to as the BLM. The BLM was created in 1946 by the merger of the General Land Office and the U.S. Grazing Service. It administers over 245 million surface acres. Most of this land is located in the 12 Western states, including Alaska and includes 22 national monuments. Its mission is: “To sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.”
Fish and Wildlife Service, US Department of Interior. Formerly known as the Bureau of Biological Survey, it was renamed Fish and Wildlife Service in 1940 and moved from the Department of Agriculture to Department of Interior. They are the lead agency for enforcing federal wildlife laws such as the Lacey Act and Migratory Bird Treaty acts including managing migratory bird hunting. They are also responsible for administration of the Endangered Species Act—managing threatened and endangered species and manage the 93-million-acre refuge system in 50 states and several territories.
State agencies are the other governmental category. They work within the state borders but do not have any control on the federal system.
State Wildlife Agencies: The North American Wildlife Model holds that wildlife is the property of the individual states. Each state has its own wildlife management agency which manages the wildlife within its borders. In Idaho, it is the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, whose mission is to preserve, protect, perpetuate and manage all wildlife in Idaho and to promote wildlife-based recreation. Most wildlife agencies are minor land managers (IDFG manages only about 350,000 acres) but coordinate with public and private landowners.
State Trust Lands: Most western states have an agency that manages trust lands—land owned by the state for the benefit of various trusts such as schools. Their job is to maximize revenue from these lands. These lands may provide recreation but are not managed for it. Idaho Department of Lands is the trust administrator here and they manage 2.4 million acres.
If that is still clear as mud, let me just conclude by saying that our natural resources are in good hands. They are managed for the long-term benefit of all and open for recreational use.
Donate part of your tax return to support wildlife in Idaho!
On the second page of the Idaho Individual Tax form 40 you have the opportunity to donate to the “Nongame Wildlife Conservation Fund”.
Check-off this box on your next return or ask your tax preparer to mark the Nongame check-off on your behalf.
If you are not from Idaho, check with your own state wildlife agency about how you can help. Many states have a similar program.
Help Idaho Wildlife
Sadly, when we traveled across the state in October, most of the vehicles we saw using the wildlife management areas did not have wildlife plates.
C'mon folks, let's help Idaho's wildlife by proudly buying and displaying a wildlife license plate on each of our vehicles!
See below for information on Idaho plates. Most states have wildlife plates so if you live outside Idaho, check with your state's wildlife department or vehicle licensing division for availability of state wildlife plates where you live.
Wildlife License Plates
Idaho Wildlife license plates provide essential funding that benefits the great diversity of native plants and wildlife that are not hunted, fished or trapped—over 10,000 species or 98% of Idaho’s species diversity. Game species that share the same habitats (such as elk, deer, antelope, sage-grouse, salmon, trout) also benefit from these specialty plates.
No state tax dollars are provided for wildlife diversity, conservation education and recreation programs. Neither are any revenues from the sale of hunting or fishing licenses spent on nongame species. Instead, these species depend on direct donations, federal grants, fundraising initiatives—and the Idaho Wildlife license plates.
Both my vehicles have Bluebird Plates. I prefer the bluebird because the nongame program gets 70 percent of the money from bluebird plates, but only 60 percent of the money from elk and trout plates - 10 percent of the money from elk plates supports wildlife disease monitoring and testing programs (to benefit the livestock industry) and 10 percent from cutthroat plates supports non-motorized boat access.
Incidentally, in 2014, the Idaho Legislature denied the Department of Fish and Game the ability to add new plates or even to change the name of the elk and cutthroat plates (very specific) to wildlife and fish plates, a move that would have allowed for changing images occasionally and generating more revenue. It would seem that they believe that we Idahoans don't want a well funded wildlife program. Go figure.
"WOW. What a phenomenal piece you wrote. You are amazing." Jennifer Jackson
That is embarrassing but actually a fairly typical response to my nature essays. Since The Best of Nature is created from the very best of 16 years of these nature essays published weekly in the Idaho Falls Post Register (online readership 70,000), it is a fine read. It covers a wide variety of topics including humorous glimpses of nature, philosophy, natural history, and conservation. Readers praise the style, breadth of subject matter and my ability to communicate complex and emotional topics in a relaxed and understandable manner.
Everyone can find something to love in this book. From teenagers to octogenarians, from the coffee shop to the school room, these nature essays are widely read and enjoyed.
Some of the essays here are my personal favorites, others seemed to strike a chord with readers. Most have an important message or lesson that will resonate with you. They are written with a goal to simultaneously entertain and educate about the wonderful workings of nature. Some will make you laugh out loud and others will bring a tear to the eye and warm your heart.
"You hit a home run with your article on, Big Questions in Nature. It should be required reading for everyone who has lost touch with nature...great job!" Joe Chapman
"We enjoyed your column, Bloom Where Planted. Some of the best writing yet. The Post Register is fortunate to have your weekly columns." Lou Griffin.
To read more and to order a copy, click here or get the Kindle version
Copies are also available at:
Barnes and Noble in Idaho Falls
Perfect Light Photo Supply
Museum of Idaho
Valley Books, Jackson Wyoming
Avocet Corner Bookstore, Bear River National Wildlife Refuge, Brigham City, Utah
Craters of the Moon National Monument Bookstore, Arco, Idaho