Federal Lands and Related Resources: Overview and Selected Issues for the 115th Congress

The Property Clause in the U.S. Constitution (Article IV, §3, clause 2) grants Congress the authority to acquire, dispose of, and manage federal property. The 115th Congress faces multiple federal land and natural resources policy and management issues. These issues include how much and which land the government should own and how lands and resources should be used and managed. These issues affect local communities, industries, ecosystems, and the nation.

There are approximately 640 million surface acres of federally owned land in the United States. Four agencies (referred to in this report as the federal land management agencies, or FLMAs) administer approximately 610 million surface acres (95%) of federal lands: the Forest Service (FS) in the Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and National Park Service (NPS), all in the Department of the Interior (DOI). The federal estate also extends to energy and mineral resources located below ground and offshore. These include about 700 million onshore acres of the federal subsurface mineral estate that are managed by BLM. In addition, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, also in DOI, manages access to approximately 1.7 billion offshore acres located in and below federal waters within and beyond the U.S. exclusive economic zone. However, not all of these onshore or offshore acres can be expected to contain extractable mineral and energy resources.

This report introduces some of the broad themes and issues Congress considers when addressing federal land policy and resource management, including questions about the extent and location of the federal estate. For example, typically Congress considers both measures to authorize and fund the acquisition of additional lands and measures to convey some land out of federal ownership or management. Other issues for Congress include whether certain lands or resources should have additional protections, for example, by designating certain lands as wilderness or national monuments, or protecting endangered species and their habitat.

Other policy questions involve how federal land should be used. Certain federal lands are considered primary- or dominant-use lands as specified in statute by Congress. For example, the dominant-use mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System is “to administer a national network of lands and waters for the conservation, management, and where appropriate, restoration of the fish, wildlife, and plant resources and their habitats within the United States for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans,” and the dual-use mission of the National Park System is to conserve unique resources and provide for their use and enjoyment by the public. BLM and FS lands, however, have a statutory mission to balance multiple uses: recreation, grazing, timber, habitat and watershed protection, and energy production, among others. Conflicts arise as users and land managers attempt to balance these uses both spatially and temporally. Congress often addresses bills to clarify, prioritize, and alter land uses, including timber harvesting, livestock grazing, and recreation (motorized and nonmotorized). In addition to questions about balancing energy production against other uses, other questions include how to balance traditional and alternative energy production on federal lands.

Additional issues of debate are how or whether to charge for access and use of federal resources and lands, how to use those funds, and whether and how to compensate local governments for the presence of untaxed federal lands within their borders. Congress also faces questions about wildfire management on both federal and nonfederal lands, including questions of risk management and funding suppression efforts.

Federal Lands and Related Resources: Overview and Selected Issues for the 115th Congress

January 18, 2017 (R43429)
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Contents

Summary

The Property Clause in the U.S. Constitution (Article IV, §3, clause 2) grants Congress the authority to acquire, dispose of, and manage federal property. The 115th Congress faces multiple federal land and natural resources policy and management issues. These issues include how much and which land the government should own and how lands and resources should be used and managed. These issues affect local communities, industries, ecosystems, and the nation.

There are approximately 640 million surface acres of federally owned land in the United States. Four agencies (referred to in this report as the federal land management agencies, or FLMAs) administer approximately 610 million surface acres (95%) of federal lands: the Forest Service (FS) in the Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and National Park Service (NPS), all in the Department of the Interior (DOI). The federal estate also extends to energy and mineral resources located below ground and offshore. These include about 700 million onshore acres of the federal subsurface mineral estate that are managed by BLM. In addition, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, also in DOI, manages access to approximately 1.7 billion offshore acres located in and below federal waters within and beyond the U.S. exclusive economic zone. However, not all of these onshore or offshore acres can be expected to contain extractable mineral and energy resources.

This report introduces some of the broad themes and issues Congress considers when addressing federal land policy and resource management, including questions about the extent and location of the federal estate. For example, typically Congress considers both measures to authorize and fund the acquisition of additional lands and measures to convey some land out of federal ownership or management. Other issues for Congress include whether certain lands or resources should have additional protections, for example, by designating certain lands as wilderness or national monuments, or protecting endangered species and their habitat.

Other policy questions involve how federal land should be used. Certain federal lands are considered primary- or dominant-use lands as specified in statute by Congress. For example, the dominant-use mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System is "to administer a national network of lands and waters for the conservation, management, and where appropriate, restoration of the fish, wildlife, and plant resources and their habitats within the United States for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans," and the dual-use mission of the National Park System is to conserve unique resources and provide for their use and enjoyment by the public. BLM and FS lands, however, have a statutory mission to balance multiple uses: recreation, grazing, timber, habitat and watershed protection, and energy production, among others. Conflicts arise as users and land managers attempt to balance these uses both spatially and temporally. Congress often addresses bills to clarify, prioritize, and alter land uses, including timber harvesting, livestock grazing, and recreation (motorized and nonmotorized). In addition to questions about balancing energy production against other uses, other questions include how to balance traditional and alternative energy production on federal lands.

Additional issues of debate are how or whether to charge for access and use of federal resources and lands, how to use those funds, and whether and how to compensate local governments for the presence of untaxed federal lands within their borders. Congress also faces questions about wildfire management on both federal and nonfederal lands, including questions of risk management and funding suppression efforts.


Federal Lands and Related Resources: Overview and Selected Issues for the 115th Congress

Introduction

Federal land management decisions influence the U.S. economy, environment, and social welfare. These decisions determine how the nation's federal lands will be acquired or disposed of, developed, managed, and protected. Their impact may be local, regional, or national. This report discusses selected federal land policy issues that the 115th Congress may consider through oversight, authorizations, or appropriations. The report also identifies CRS products that provide more detailed information.1

The federal government manages roughly 640 million acres of surface land, approximately 28% of the 2.3 billion acres of land in the United States.2 Four agencies (referred to in this report as the federal land management agencies, or FLMAs) administer a total of 610 million acres (95%) of these federal lands:3 the Forest Service (FS) in the Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and National Park Service (NPS), all in the Department of the Interior (DOI). Most of these lands are in the West and Alaska, where the percentage of federal ownership is significantly higher than elsewhere in the nation (see Figure 1). In addition, the Department of Defense administers approximately 11 million acres in military bases, training ranges, and more; and numerous other agencies administer the remaining federal acreage.4

The federal estate also extends to energy and mineral resources located below ground and offshore. These include about 700 million onshore acres of the federal subsurface mineral estate and about 1.7 billion acres located beyond state coastal waters—referred to as U.S. offshore areas—although not all of these acres can be expected to contain extractable mineral and energy resources. The U.S. offshore areas, which lie within and beyond the U.S. exclusive economic zone (EEZ), are also referred to as the outer continental shelf (OCS), and are managed by the Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management (BOEM).5

Figure 1. Federal Onshore and Offshore Management Areas

Source: Congressional Research Service (CRS).

Notes: This figure reflects the approximately 610 million acres of surface federal lands managed by the federal land management agencies (FLMAs) as well as the Department of Defense (DOD) in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. This map shows a generalized image of federal lands and submerged lands without attempting to demonstrate with any specificity the geographical area of the U.S. exclusive economic zone (EEZ) as defined by state or federal courts, lawmakers, or agency officials. Due to scale considerations, all of the ocean area surrounding Hawaii in the figure is within the U.S. EEZ.

Federal land policy and management issues generally fall into several broad thematic questions: Should federal land be managed to produce national or local benefits? How should current uses be balanced with future resources and opportunities? Should current uses, management, and protection programs be replaced with alternatives? Who decides how federal land resources should be managed, and how are the decisions made?

Some stakeholders seek to maintain or enhance the federal estate, while others seek to divest the federal estate to state or private ownership. Some issues, such as forest management and fire protection, involve both federal and nonfederal (state, local, or privately owned) land. In many cases, policy positions on federal land issues do not divide along clear party lines. Instead, they may be split along the lines of rural-urban, eastern-western, and coastal-interior interests.

Several committees in the House and Senate have jurisdiction over federal lands issues. For example, issues involving the management of the national forests cross multiple committee jurisdictions, including the Committees on Agriculture and Natural Resources in the House and the Committees on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry; and on Energy and Natural Resources in the Senate. In addition, federal land issues are often addressed during consideration of annual appropriations for the FLMAs' programs and activities. Specifically, these agencies and programs typically receive appropriations through annual Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies appropriations laws.

This report introduces selected federal land issues, many of which are complex and interrelated.6 The discussions are broad and aim to introduce the range of issues regarding federal land management, while providing references to more detailed and specific CRS products. After a brief overview of the FLMAs and BOEM, the issues are grouped into these broad categories:

  • Federal Estate Ownership,
  • Funding for Federal Land Management,
  • Climate and Federal Land Management,
  • Energy and Minerals Resources and Development,
  • Forest Management,
  • Range Management,
  • Recreation on Federal Lands,
  • Supplemental Land Designations,
  • Species Management, and
  • Wildfire Management.

Agencies Managing Federal Lands (Onshore and Offshore)

Federal land ownership began when the original 13 states ceded title of some of their land to the newly formed central government. The early federal policy was to dispose of federal land to generate revenue and encourage western settlement and development. However, Congress began to withdraw, reserve, and protect federal land through the creation of national parks and forest reserves starting in the late 1800s. This "reservation era" laid the foundation for the current federal agencies, whose primary purpose is to manage natural resources on federal lands. The four FLMAs and BOEM were created at different times, with different missions and purposes, as discussed below.

Forest Service

The Forest Service (FS) is the oldest of the federal land management agencies. Although the first forest reserves—later renamed national forests—were created in 1891, FS was established later, in 1905 in the Department of Agriculture. FS is charged with managing the National Forest System (NFS), as well as conducting forestry research and providing assistance to state and private forest owners. Today, FS administers 193 million acres of land—including 154 national forests and 20 national grasslands—predominately in the West (although FS manages more than half of all the federal lands in the East).7

The forest reserves were originally authorized to protect the lands, preserve water flows, and provide timber. These purposes were expanded in the Multiple-Use Sustained-Yield Act of 1960.8 This act added recreation, livestock grazing, and wildlife and fish habitat as purposes of the national forests, with wilderness added as a defined management objective in 1964.9 The act directed that these multiple uses be managed in a "harmonious and coordinated" manner and "in the combination that will best meet the needs of the American people."10 The act also directed FS to manage the renewable resources under the principle of sustained yield, meaning to achieve a high level of resource outputs in perpetuity, without impairing the productivity of the lands. Congress reaffirmed and expanded the multiple-use sustained-yield management directive in subsequent legislation, including the Forest Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act of 1974 (RPA)11 and the National Forest Management Act of 1976 (NFMA).12 The RPA and NFMA also direct FS to conduct long-range planning efforts to manage the national forests. Balancing the multiple uses across the national forest system has sometimes led to conflicts regarding management decisions and priorities.

Bureau of Land Management

The BLM was formed in 1946 by combining two existing agencies.13 The BLM currently administers more onshore federal lands than any other agency—248 million acres. BLM lands are heavily concentrated (99.9%) in 12 western states.14 Nearly half of the total acreage is in two states—Alaska (29%) and Nevada (19%).15 BLM lands, officially designated the National System of Public Lands, include grasslands, forests, high mountains, arctic tundra, and deserts. BLM lands often are intermingled with other federal or private lands, and the agency has authority to acquire, dispose of, and exchange lands under various statutes.

As defined in the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA),16 BLM management responsibilities are similar to those of FS—sustained yields of the multiple uses, including recreation, grazing, timber, watershed, wildlife and fish habitat, and conservation. For instance, about 155 million acres are available for livestock grazing, and about 35 million acres are in BLM's National Landscape Conservation System. Some lands are withdrawn (restricted) from one or more uses, or managed for a predominant use. Under FLPMA, the agency inventories its lands and resources and periodically develops land use plans for its land units. In addition, BLM administers onshore federal energy and mineral resources, covering nearly 700 million acres of federal subsurface mineral estate—including the subsurface of many national forests—although not all of these acres can be expected to contain extractable mineral and energy resources. BLM also supervises the mineral operations on about 56 million acres of Indian trust lands. Conflicts sometimes arise among and between users and land managers as a result of the diversity of the lands and multiple use opportunities provided on BLM public lands.

Fish and Wildlife Service

The first national wildlife refuge was established by executive order in 1903.17 In 1966, the refuges were aggregated into the National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS), administered by the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). Because of management agreements with other federal agencies or state governments, lands under easements, marine national monuments (some in and some out of the NWRS but both under the jurisdiction of FWS), and other complicating factors, FWS has the most complex ownership pattern of the four FLMAs.18 The total NWRS acreage under the jurisdiction of FWS consists of 150.4 million acres in 50 states and 4 territories:

  • 146.3 million acres of National Wildlife Refuges (including 52.8 million acres of Marine National Monuments);
  • 3.8 million acres of Waterfowl Production Areas (very small wetlands areas providing breeding habitat for millions of waterfowl, nearly all in the upper plains states); and
  • 0.3 million acres of wildlife Coordination Areas managed cooperatively with states.

Of the total acres in the NWRS, 77 million acres are in Alaska. There are 1.6 million acres of the national total that are not in the agency's primary jurisdiction: FWS management of these areas for wildlife is subordinate to the management needs of such other agencies as the Coast Guard, Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation, and others. Of the total acres in the NWRS, 4.8 million acres under the agency's jurisdiction are held as easements, agreements, or leases.

In addition to the NWRS acres, FWS has under its jurisdiction 910 acres of administrative sites, 21 thousand acres of national fish hatcheries, and 418.4 million acres of other marine national monuments that are not designated as part of the NWRS.19 These areas bring the total land and marine areas under the agency's jurisdiction to 568.8 million acres.

In contrast to the multiple-use missions of FS and BLM, FWS has a dominant-use mission—to conserve plants and animals for the benefit of present and future generations. Wildlife-related activities (hunting, fishing, bird-watching, hiking, education, etc.) are considered "priority uses" and are given preference over consumptive uses. Other uses (motorized recreation, timber cutting, grazing, mineral development, etc.) are permitted, to the extent that they are compatible with the species' needs. In some cases, preexisting legal rights (e.g., to water or to subsurface resources) may expand the normal range of permitted uses, unless the preexisting rights are acquired from previous owners. Determining compatibility can be challenging, but the relative clarity of the mission generally has minimized disagreements over refuge management and use.

National Park Service

The National Park Service (NPS) was created in 1916 to manage the growing number of park units established by Congress and monuments proclaimed by the President.20 The National Park System has grown to 413 units with diverse titles—national park, national preserve, national historic site, national recreation area, national battlefield, and many more.21 NPS administers 81 million acres of federal land in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories. Roughly two-thirds of the system's lands are in Alaska.22

The NPS has a dual mission—to preserve unique resources and to provide for their enjoyment by the public. Park units include spectacular natural areas (e.g., Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, and Arches National Parks), unique prehistoric sites (e.g., Mesa Verde National Park and Dinosaur National Monument), and special places in American history (e.g., Valley Forge National Historic Park, Gettysburg National Military Park, and the Statue of Liberty National Monument), as well as areas that focus on recreation (e.g., Cape Cod National Seashore and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area). NPS laws, regulations, and policies emphasize the conservation of park resources in conservation/use conflicts, and the system's lands and resources generally receive a higher level of protection than those of BLM and FS. Tension between providing recreation and preserving resources has produced many management challenges for NPS.

Bureau of Ocean Energy Management

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) was established in 2010.23 BOEM was created as part of DOI structural reforms to replace the Minerals Management Service (MMS), which was previously responsible for managing offshore energy resources.24 BOEM's mission is to balance energy independence, environmental protection, and economic development through responsible, science-based management of offshore conventional and renewable energy resources in four regions: the Atlantic, the Pacific, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Arctic (see Figure 1).

BOEM manages energy resources in areas of the OCS covering approximately 1.7 billion acres located beyond state waters. These areas are defined in the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, as amended (OCSLA).25 Most OCS acreage is concentrated in the Alaska region (more than 1 billion acres), but some OCS acreage exists off all coastal states.26 OCS revenues have been allocated mainly to the General Treasury and to two federal programs—the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the Historic Preservation Fund.27 Because of the cross-cutting nature of its management responsibilities, BOEM collaborates with two other DOI agencies: the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) and the Office of Natural Resources Revenue (ONRR).28

BOEM schedules and conducts OCS oil and gas lease sales,29 administers existing oil and gas leases, and issues easements and leases for deploying renewable energy technologies,30 among other responsibilities. BOEM also administers offshore sand and gravel resources to assist state beach-replenishment efforts.

CRS Products

CRS Report R42346, Federal Land Ownership: Overview and Data, by [author name scrubbed], [author name scrubbed], and [author name scrubbed].

CRS Report R42656, Federal Land Management Agencies and Programs: CRS Experts, by [author name scrubbed].

CRS In Focus IF10585, The Federal Land Management Agencies, by [author name scrubbed].

Federal Estate Ownership

The ownership and use of federal lands has generated controversy since the late 1800s. One key area of debate is the extent of the federal estate; or, in other words, how much land the federal government should own. This debate includes questions about disposing of some federal land to state or private ownership, or if additional land should be acquired for recreation, conservation, open space, or other purposes. For lands retained in federal ownership, questions have centered around whether to curtail or expand certain land designations (e.g., national monuments proclaimed by the President or wilderness areas designated by Congress) or if current management procedures should be changed (e.g., to allow a greater role for state and local governments or to expand economic considerations in decisionmaking). A separate issue is how to ensure the security of international borders while protecting the federal lands and resources along the border, which are managed by multiple agencies with their own missions.

Debates about federal land ownership—including efforts to divest federal lands—often hinge upon constitutional principles such as the Property Clause and the Supremacy Clause.31 The Property Clause grants Congress authority over the lands, territories, or other property of the United States: "the Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States."32 Thus, Congress has broad and exclusive authority to govern the lands of the federal government. The Supremacy Clause establishes federal preemption over state law, meaning where a state law conflicts with federal law, the federal law will prevail.33 Through these constitutional principles, the U.S. Supreme Court has described Congress's power over federal lands as "without limitations."34

Echoing efforts of the "Sagebrush Rebellion" during the 1980s, several states have initiated efforts to assume title to the federal lands within their borders in recent years. These efforts generally are in response to concerns about the amount of federal land within their state, as well as concerns about how the land is managed, fiscally and otherwise.35 Efforts by a state to claim federal lands absent parallel federal legislation seem unlikely to succeed because of the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution. That clause gives federal laws—such as the laws establishing the states in which the states forever waived their rights to federal lands36—supremacy over state laws. Further, each state constitution recognizes the U.S. Constitution as the supreme law of the land, reaffirming federal supremacy. Accordingly, state or local laws attempting to impose requirements on federal lands would be preempted by federal law.

CRS Products

CRS Report R42346, Federal Land Ownership: Overview and Data, by [author name scrubbed], [author name scrubbed], and [author name scrubbed].

CRS Report R44267, State Management of Federal Lands: Frequently Asked Questions, by [author name scrubbed] and [author name scrubbed].

CRS Report R41770, Leasing and Selling Federal Lands and Resources: Receipts and Their Disposition, by [author name scrubbed] and [author name scrubbed].

Agency Acquisition and Disposal Authorities

Congress has granted the FLMAs varying authorities to acquire and dispose of land. The extent of this authority differs considerably among the agencies. The BLM has relatively broad authority for both acquisitions and disposals under FLPMA. By contrast, NPS has almost no general authority to acquire land to create new park units or to dispose of park lands without congressional action. The FS authority to acquire lands is limited mostly to lands within or contiguous to the boundaries of a national forest, including the authority to acquire access corridors to national forests across nonfederal lands.37 The agency has various authorities to dispose of land, but they are relatively constrained and infrequently used. FWS has various authorities to acquire lands, but no general authority to dispose of its lands. For example, the Migratory Bird Conservation Act of 1929 grants FWS authority to acquire land for the National Wildlife Refuge System—using funds from sources that include the sale of hunting and conservation stamps—after state consultation and agreement.38

The current acquisition and disposal authorities form the backdrop for consideration of measures to establish, modify, or eliminate authorities, or to provide for the acquisition or disposal of particular lands. Congress also addresses acquisition and disposal policy in the context of debates on the role and goals of the federal government in owning and managing land generally.

CRS Product

CRS Report RL34273, Federal Land Ownership: Acquisition and Disposal Authorities, by [author name scrubbed] et al.

Funding Issues

Funding for federal land and FLMA natural resource programs presents an array of issues for Congress. The FLMAs receive their discretionary appropriations through Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies appropriations laws. In addition to questions related directly to appropriations, other funding questions relate to the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Congress appropriates funds to the LWCF for land acquisition by federal agencies, outdoor recreation needs of states, and other purposes. Under debate are the levels, sources, and uses of funding and whether some funding should be reauthorized and continued as discretionary. A second set of questions relates to the compensation of states or counties for the presence of nontaxable federal lands and resources, including whether to revise or maintain existing payment programs. A third set of issues relates to the maintenance of assets by the agencies, particularly how to address their backlog of maintenance projects while achieving other government priorities.

CRS Products

CRS Report R44470, Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies: FY2017 Appropriations, by [author name scrubbed].

CRS Report R43822, Federal Land Management Agencies: Appropriations and Revenues, coordinated by [author name scrubbed].

Land and Water Conservation Fund

The Land and Water Conservation Fund Act of 1965 was enacted to help preserve, develop, and assure access to outdoor recreation facilities to strengthen the health of U.S. citizens.39 The law created the Land and Water Conservation Fund in the U.S. Treasury as a funding source to implement its outdoor recreation purposes. The LWCF has been the principal source of monies for land acquisition for outdoor recreation by the four FLMAs. The LWCF also has funded a matching grant program to assist states with outdoor recreational needs and other federal programs with purposes related to lands and resources.

The LWCF is authorized at $900 million annually through September 30, 2018. Although the fund accrues revenues and collections from multiple sources, nearly all of the revenues are derived from oil and gas leasing in the OCS. Congress determines the level of discretionary appropriations each year, and yearly appropriations have fluctuated widely since the origin of the program. In addition to any discretionary appropriations, the state grant program receives (mandatory) permanent appropriations.40 Of the total revenues that have accrued throughout the history of the program ($38.0 billion), less than half have been appropriated ($17.5 billion).41 Thus, the unappropriated balance in the fund is currently estimated at approximately $20.5 billion.

There is a difference of opinion as to the appropriate level of funds for LWCF and how those funds should be decided. Current congressional issues include deciding the amount to appropriate for land acquisition, the state grant program, and other purposes. Several other issues have been under debate, including whether to authorize the LWCF to accrue $900 million annually beyond 2018; provide the fund with permanent appropriations; direct revenues from additional activities to the LWCF; limit the use of funds for particular purposes, such as federal land acquisition; and require some of the funds to be used for certain purposes, such as facility maintenance. Another area of focus is the state grant program, with issues including its priority relative to federal land acquisition, the impact of anticipated increases in mandatory funding, and the way in which funds are apportioned among the states.

CRS Products

CRS Report RL33531, Land and Water Conservation Fund: Overview, Funding History, and Issues, by [author name scrubbed].

CRS Report R44121, Land and Water Conservation Fund: Appropriations for "Other Purposes", by [author name scrubbed].

CRS In Focus IF10323, Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF): Questions and Answers Related to Expired Provisions, by [author name scrubbed] and [author name scrubbed]

Federal Payment and Revenue-Sharing Programs

As a condition of statehood, most states forever waived the right to tax federal lands within their borders. However, some assert that federal lands may create demand for services such as fire protection, police cooperation, or longer roads to skirt the federal property. Under federal law, local governments are compensated through various programs due to the presence of federally owned land. Some of these programs are run by specific agencies and apply only to that agency's land. In addition, portions of monies collected for a variety of land uses and activities are shared with state and local governments where the uses and activities occur. One example pertains to the rents and royalties charged for energy development and production on both onshore and offshore federal lands. The adequacy, coverage, and equity of the payment formulas for all of these programs are recurring issues for Congress.42

The most widely applicable onshore program, administered by DOI, applies to many types of federally owned land and is called Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT).43 Counties with NPS lands receive payments primarily under PILT. FS and BLM have additional payment programs based primarily on receipts from revenue-producing activities on their lands; FWS has a smaller payment program for certain refuge lands. One program (Secure Rural Schools, or SRS) compensates counties with NFS lands or certain BLM lands in Oregon for declining timber harvests. The authorization for this program expired after the payments were disbursed in FY2016.

The federal government shares the revenue from mineral and energy development, both onshore and offshore. Revenue collected (rents, bonus, and royalties) from onshore mineral and energy development is shared 50% with the states, under the Mineral Leasing Act of 192044 (less administrative costs). Alaska, however, receives 90% of all revenues collected on federal onshore leases (less administrative costs).

Revenue collected from offshore mineral and energy development in the outer continental shelf (OCS) is shared with the coastal states, albeit at a lower rate. The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act of 1953 allocates 27% of the revenue generated from certain federal offshore leases to the coastal states.45 Separately, the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA)46 provided for revenue sharing at a rate of 37.5% for four coastal states47 starting in 2006 for specific OCS leases, and expanding to more OCS leases in 2017. Coastal states have advocated for a greater share of the OCS revenues based on the impacts oil and gas projects have on coastal infrastructure and the environment, while other states and stakeholders have contended that more of the revenue should go to the general fund of the Treasury or to other federal programs.

CRS Products

CRS Report R42439, Compensating State and Local Governments for the Tax-Exempt Status of Federal Lands: What Is Fair and Consistent?, by [author name scrubbed].

CRS Report RL31392, PILT (Payments in Lieu of Taxes): Somewhat Simplified, by [author name scrubbed].

CRS Report R41303, Reauthorizing the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000, by [author name scrubbed].

CRS Report R42404, Fish and Wildlife Service: Compensation to Local Governments, by [author name scrubbed].

CRS Report R42951, The Oregon and California Railroad Lands (O&C Lands): Issues for Congress, by [author name scrubbed].

CRS Report R40645, U.S. Offshore Oil and Gas Resources: Prospects and Processes, by [author name scrubbed] and [author name scrubbed].

Deferred Maintenance

The FLMAs have maintenance responsibility for their buildings, roads and trails, recreation sites, and other infrastructure. Congress continues to focus on the agencies' deferred maintenance, often called the maintenance backlog, defined as maintenance that "was not performed when it should have been or was scheduled to be and which, therefore, is put off or delayed for a future period."48 The agencies assert that continuing to defer maintenance of facilities accelerates their rate of deterioration, increases their repair costs, and decreases their value and safety.

Congressional and administrative attention has centered on the NPS backlog, which has continued to increase from an FY1999 estimate of $4.25 billion in nominal dollars. Currently, DOI estimates deferred maintenance for NPS for FY2015 at $11.7 billion.49 Roughly half of the backlogged maintenance is for roads, parking areas, bridges, and tunnels. The other FLMAs also have maintenance backlogs. DOI estimates that deferred maintenance for FY2015 for FWS is at $1.3 billion and the BLM backlog is at $0.7 billion. FS estimated its backlog for FY2015 at $5.2 billion.50 Thus, the four agencies together had a combined FY2015 backlog estimated at $19.0 billion.51

The backlogs have been attributed to decades of funding shortfalls to address capital improvement projects. However, it is not always clear how much total funding has been provided for deferred maintenance each year because some annual presidential budget requests and appropriations documents did not identify and aggregate all funds for deferred maintenance. Currently, there is debate over the appropriate level of funds to maintain infrastructure, whether to use funds from other discretionary or mandatory programs or sources, how to balance maintenance of the existing infrastructure with the acquisition of new assets, and the priority of maintaining infrastructure relative to other government functions.

CRS Product

CRS Report R43997, Deferred Maintenance of Federal Land Management Agencies: FY2005-FY2014 Estimates, by [author name scrubbed].

Climate Policy and Federal Land Management

Scientific evidence shows that the United States' climate has been changing in recent decades.52 This poses several interrelated and complex issues for the management of federal lands and their resources, in terms of mitigation, adaptation, and resiliency. Overall, climate change is introducing uncertainty about conditions previously considered relatively stable and predictable. Given the diversity of federal land and resources, concerns are wide-ranging and include invasive species, sea-level rise, wildlife habitat changes, and increased vulnerability to extreme weather events, as well as concerns about the effects of these changes on tourism and recreation. Some specific observed effects of climate change include a fire season that begins earlier and lasts longer in some locations, warmer winter temperatures that allow various insect and disease infestations to persist in some areas, thinner snowpacks that melt earlier, and habitat shifts that affect the status of sensitive species. Another concern is how climate change may affect some iconic federal lands, such as the diminishing size of the glaciers at Glacier National Park and several parks in Alaska,53 or the flooding of some wildlife refuges.

The role of the FLMAs in responding to climate change is currently under debate. Some stakeholders are concerned that a focus on climate change adaptation may divert resources and attention from other agency activities and near-term challenges. Others see future climate conditions as representing an increased risk to the effective performance of agency missions and roles.

A related debate is the role of federal agencies—particularly BLM and BOEM—in energy production on federal lands. Specifically in question is the extent to which the agencies should provide access to and promote different sources of energy production on federal lands based on the effects on climate from that production. Both traditional sources of energy (non-renewable fossil fuels such as oil, gas, and coal) and alternative sources of energy (renewable fuels such as solar, wind, and geothermal) are available on some federal lands. However, since fossil fuel emissions contribute to climate change, some stakeholders concerned about climate change assert that the agencies should prioritize renewable energy production on federal lands over traditional energy sources.

Specific legislative issues for Congress may be the extent the FLMAs manage in furtherance of long-term climate policy goals and proposals to restructure or improve collaboration among the FLMAs regarding climate change activities and reporting.

CRS Products

CRS Report R43915, Climate Change Adaptation by Federal Agencies: An Analysis of Plans and Issues for Congress, coordinated by [author name scrubbed].

CRS Report R43229, Climate Change Science: Key Points, by [author name scrubbed].

Energy and Mineral Resources

Much of the onshore federal estate is open to energy and mineral exploration and development, including BLM and many FS lands. However, many NPS lands and designated wilderness areas, as well as certain other federal lands, have been specifically withdrawn from exploration and development.54 Offshore federal resources, within and beyond the U.S. EEZ, are also open for exploration and development. Energy production on federal lands accounts for a significant amount of total U.S. energy production. For example, in 2015, as a percentage of total U.S. production, approximately 22% of crude oil, 15% of natural gas, and 42% of coal production came from federal lands.55 Coal production from federal lands has consistently accounted for about 40% of total U.S. coal production over the past decade.

Federal lands also are available for renewable energy projects. Geothermal capacity on federal lands represents 40% of U.S. total geothermal electric generating capacity.56 Solar and wind energy potential on federal lands is growing and, based on BLM-approved projects, there is potential for 5,000 megawatts (MW) of wind and nearly 8,800 MW of solar energy on federal lands.57

The 115th Congress may debate issues related to access to and availability of onshore and offshore federal lands for energy and mineral development, as well as to how to balance energy and mineral development, environmental protection and post-production remediation, and other uses for those federal lands. Some would like to open more federal lands for energy development, whereas others have sought to retain or increase restrictions and withdrawals for certain areas they consider too sensitive or inappropriate for traditional and/or renewable energy development. Congress also has focused on the energy and mineral permitting processes, the timeline for energy and mineral development, and debates over royalty collections.

CRS Products

CRS Report R42756, Energy Policy: 114th Congress Issues, by [author name scrubbed].

CRS Report R41770, Leasing and Selling Federal Lands and Resources: Receipts and Their Disposition, by [author name scrubbed] and [author name scrubbed].

CRS Report R43891, Mineral Royalties on Federal Lands: Issues for Congress, by [author name scrubbed].

Onshore Resources

Oil and Natural Gas

Onshore oil and natural gas produced on federal lands account for 5% and 8% of total U.S. oil and gas production, respectively.58 Development of oil, gas, and coal on federal lands is governed primarily by the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920 (MLA).59 The MLA authorizes the Secretary of the Interior—through BLM—to lease the subsurface rights to virtually all BLM and FS lands that contain fossil fuel deposits, with the federal government retaining title to the lands.60 Leases include an annual rental fee and a royalty payment generally determined by a percentage of the value or amount of the resource removed or sold from the federal land.

Access to federal lands for energy and mineral development has been a controversial issue. The oil and gas industry contends that entry into the currently unavailable areas is necessary to ensure future domestic oil and gas supplies. Opponents maintain that the restricted lands are unique or environmentally sensitive and that the United States could realize equivalent energy gains through conservation and increased exploration on current leases or elsewhere. Another controversial issue is the permitting process and timeline, which the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct05) revised for oil and gas permits.61

Congress also is debating increasing royalty rates on onshore federal oil and gas leases. The onshore royalty rate for federal oil and gas leases has remained at the statutory minimum of 12.5% since the enactment of the MLA in 1920. However, royalty rates for offshore leases currently range from 12.5% to 18.75%. In 2016, DOI published updated BLM regulations on reducing waste from flaring, leaks, and venting of natural gas on federal lands and gave the Secretary of the Interior discretion to raise the federal onshore oil and gas royalty rate above the 12.5% statutory minimum for competitive leases.62

Coal

Congress debates several issues regarding coal production on federal lands, including how to balance coal production against other resource values. Other concerns include how to assess the value of the coal resource, what is the fair market value for the coal, and what should be the government's royalty. A 2013 GAO analysis found inconsistencies in how BLM evaluated and documented federal coal leases.63 In addition, a 2013 DOI Inspector General report found BLM may have violated MLA provisions by accepting below-cost bids for federal coal leases.64 Then Secretary of the Interior Jewell announced a new rule for the valuation of coal, effective January 1, 2017.65 In the rule, the Office of Natural Resources Revenue reaffirms that the value for royalty purposes is at or near the lease and that gross proceeds from arm's-length contracts are the best indication of market value.

On January 15, 2016, President Obama announced a moratorium on federal coal leasing to examine the federal coal leasing program and to determine whether it needs to be "modernized."66 There has been both support for and opposition to the moratorium in Congress.

CRS Products

CRS Report R43011, U.S. and World Coal Production, Federal Taxes, and Incentives, coordinated by [author name scrubbed].

CRS Report R40806, Energy Projects on Federal Lands: Leasing and Authorization, by [author name scrubbed].

CRS Report R42432, U.S. Crude Oil and Natural Gas Production in Federal and Nonfederal Areas, by [author name scrubbed].

Renewable Energy on Federal Land

Both BLM and FS manage land that is considered suitable for renewable energy generation and as such have authorized projects for geothermal, wind, solar, and biomass energy projects. BLM manages the solar and wind energy programs on about 20 million acres for each program and about 800 geothermal leases on federal lands.67 Interest in renewable energy projects comes in part from concern over the impact of emissions from fossil fuel-fired power plants but also is driven by the adoption of statewide renewable portfolio standards that require electricity producers to supply a certain minimum share (which varies by state) of electricity from renewable sources. Congressional interest in renewable energy resources on onshore federal lands has focused on whether to expand the leasing program for wind and solar projects versus maintaining the current right-of-way authorization process, and how to balance environmental concerns with the development and production of these resources.

Geothermal Energy. Geothermal energy is produced from heat stored under the surface of the earth. Geothermal leasing on federal lands is conducted under the authority of the Geothermal Steam Act of 1970, as amended,68 and is managed by BLM, in consultation with FS. Under EPAct05, states receive 50% of the revenue generated from rental and royalty payments from geothermal leases within their states, counties receive 25%, and the remaining 25% goes to the Treasury.

  • Wind and Solar Energy. Development of solar and wind energy sources on BLM and FS lands is governed primarily by right-of-way authorities under Title V of FLPMA.69 These projects could require large tracts of land to replace or add significant electric generating capacity, in addition to new transmission capacity. The potential wildlife impacts from wind turbines and water supply requirements from some solar energy remain controversial. Issues for Congress include how to manage the leasing process and how to balance such projects against other land uses.
  • Woody Biomass.70 Removing woody biomass from federal lands for energy production has received special attention because of biomass's widespread availability. Proponents assert that removing biomass density on NFS and BLM lands also provides landscape benefits (e.g., improved forest resiliency, reduced risk of catastrophic wildfires). Opponents, however, are concerned that incentives to use wood and wood waste might increase land disturbances on federal lands, and they are concerned about related wildlife, landscape, and ecosystem impacts. Other issues include the role of the federal government in developing and supporting emerging markets for woody biomass energy production, and whether to include biomass removed from federal lands in the Renewable Fuel Standard.71

Locatable Minerals

Locatable minerals include both metallic minerals (e.g., gold, silver, copper), nonmetallic minerals (e.g., mica, gypsum), and other minerals generally found in the subsurface.72 Developing these minerals on federal lands is guided by the General Mining Law of 1872. The law, largely unchanged since enactment, grants free access to individuals and corporations to prospect for minerals in public domain lands,73 and allows them, upon making a discovery, to stake (or "locate") a claim on the deposit. A claim gives the holder the right to develop the minerals and apply for a patent to obtain full title of the land and minerals. Congress has imposed a moratorium on mining claim patents in the annual Interior appropriations laws since FY1995, but has not restricted the right to stake claims or extract minerals.

The mining industry supports the claim-patent system, which offers the right to enter federal lands and prospect for and develop minerals. Critics consider the claim-patent system a giveaway of publicly owned resources because royalty payments are not required and the amounts paid to maintain a claim and to obtain a patent are small. New mining claim location and annual claim maintenance fees are currently $37 and $155 per claim, respectively.74

CRS Product

CRS Report RL33908, Mining on Federal Lands: Hardrock Minerals, by [author name scrubbed].

Offshore Resources

The federal government is responsible for managing energy resources in approximately 1.7 billion acres of waters belonging to the United States (see Figure 1). These offshore resources are governed by the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act of 1953 (OCSLA), as amended, and management involves balancing domestic energy demands with protection of the environment.75 Policymakers have debated access to ocean areas for offshore drilling, as regional economic needs and concerns about U.S. dependence on foreign fuels have competed with concerns about the vulnerability of oceans and shoreline communities to oil-spill risks and the contribution of oil and gas drilling to climate change. Some support banning drilling through congressional moratoria, presidential withdrawals, and other measures. Others contend that increasing offshore oil and gas development will strengthen and diversify the nation's domestic energy portfolio and that drilling can be done in a safe manner that protects marine and coastal areas.

Offshore Oil and Gas Leases

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management administers approximately 5,000 active oil and gas leases on over 27 million acres in the OCS.76 Under the OCSLA, BOEM prepares forward-looking, five-year leasing programs to govern oil and gas lease sales. BOEM released its proposed final leasing program for 2017-2022 in November 2016. The program schedules 10 sales in the Gulf of Mexico region and 1 in the Alaska region.77 Legislation proposed but not enacted in the 114th Congress would have modified the program to mandate additional lease sales, ban certain areas from leasing, or make other changes.

Under the OCSLA,78 the President may withdraw unleased lands on the OCS from leasing disposition. For example, President Obama indefinitely withdrew from leasing disposition large portions of the Arctic OCS as well as certain areas in the Atlantic region.79 Congress also has established leasing moratoria; for example, the GOMESA established a moratorium on preleasing, leasing, and related activity in the eastern Gulf of Mexico through June 2022.80

The 115th Congress may consider multiple issues related to offshore oil and gas exploration, including questions about allowing or deferring access to ocean areas and how such changes may impact domestic energy markets and affect the risk of oil spills. Other issues concern the use of OCS revenues and the extent to which they should be shared with coastal states (see "Federal Payment and Revenue-Sharing Programs" section).

Offshore Renewable Energy Sources

BOEM also is responsible for managing leases, easements, and rights-of-way to support development of energy from renewable ocean energy resources, including offshore wind, thermal power, and kinetic forces from ocean tides and waves.81 As of December 2016, BOEM had issued 12 offshore wind energy leases in areas off the coasts of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, New York, and New Jersey.82 In December 2016, the first U.S. offshore wind farm, off the coast of Rhode Island, began regular operations. Issues for Congress include whether to take steps to facilitate the development of offshore wind and other renewables, such as through research and development project loan guarantees, extension of federal tax credits for renewable energy production, or oversight of regulatory issues for these emerging industries.

CRS Products

CRS Report R44504, The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management's Five-Year Program for Offshore Oil and Gas Leasing: History and Final Program for 2017-2022, by [author name scrubbed], [author name scrubbed], and [author name scrubbed].

CRS Report R44692, Five-Year Program for Federal Offshore Oil and Gas Leasing: Status and Issues in Brief, by [author name scrubbed].

CRS Report RL33404, Offshore Oil and Gas Development: Legal Framework, by [author name scrubbed].

CRS Report R40645, U.S. Offshore Oil and Gas Resources: Prospects and Processes, by [author name scrubbed] and [author name scrubbed].

CRS Report R40175, Wind Energy: Offshore Permitting, by [author name scrubbed].

Forest Management

Management of federal forests presents several policy questions for Congress. For instance, there is debate about the appropriate level of timber harvesting on federal forest lands, particularly FS and BLM lands. A related debate is how to balance timber harvesting against the other uses and values for these federal lands. Further, Congress may debate how the agencies use timber harvesting or other active forest management techniques to achieve other resource-management objectives, such as improving wildlife habitat or improving a forest's resistance and resilience to disturbance events (e.g., wildfire, ice storm).

FS manages the most federal forest land: approximately 188 million acres of the 193 million acre National Forest System (NFS) are national forests (98%).83 In FY2016, approximately 2.5 billion board feet of timber and other forest products were harvested from NFS lands, at a value of $165.4 million.84 BLM manages approximately 60 million acres of forest and woodlands. The vast majority—58 million acres—is public domain forests, managed under the principles of multiple use and sustained yield as established by FLPMA for generating forest products and forest restoration activities. The 2.6 million acres of Oregon & California Railroad Lands (O&C) in western Oregon, however, are managed under a statutory direction for permanent forest production.85 In FY2016, approximately 229.7 million board feet of timber and other forest products were harvested from BLM lands, at a value of $47.5 million.86 The NPS and FWS have limited authorities to cut, sell, or dispose of timber from their lands and have established policies to do so only in certain cases, such as controlling for insect and disease outbreaks.

In the past few years, the ecological condition of the federal forests has been one focus of discussion. Some legislative proposals have focused on ecosystem issues, including the forests' susceptibility to insect and disease outbreaks and the risk of catastrophic wildfires. Many believe that federal forests are ecologically degraded, contending that decades of wildfire suppression and other forest-management decisions have created overgrown forests overstocked with biomass (fuels) that can serve to increase the spread or intensity of wildfires. These observers advocate rapid action to improve forest conditions, including prescribed burning, thinning, and salvaging dead and dying trees. Critics counter that authorities to reduce fuel levels are adequate, treatments that remove commercial timber degrade other ecosystem conditions and waste taxpayer dollars, and expedited processes for treatments reduce public oversight of commercial timber harvesting.

CRS Products

CRS Report R43872, National Forest System Management: Overview, Appropriations, and Issues for Congress, by [author name scrubbed].

CRS Report R42951, The Oregon and California Railroad Lands (O&C Lands): Issues for Congress, by [author name scrubbed].

Range Management

Livestock Grazing

Management of federal rangelands, particularly by BLM and FS, presents an array of policy matters for Congress. Several issues pertain to livestock grazing. There is debate about the appropriate fee that should be charged for grazing private livestock on BLM and FS lands, including what criteria should prevail in setting the fee. Today, fees are charged under a formula established by law in 1978, then continued indefinitely through an executive order issued by President Reagan in 1986.87 The BLM and FS are generally charging a grazing fee of $2.1188 per animal unit month (AUM)89 for grazing on their lands. Conservation groups, among others, generally seek increased fees to recover program costs or approximate market value, whereas livestock producers who use federal lands want to keep fees low to sustain ranching and rural economies.

The BLM and FS issue permits and/or leases to ranchers that specify the terms and conditions for grazing on agency lands. Permits and leases generally cover a 10-year period and may be renewed. Congress has considered whether to extend the permit/lease length (e.g., to 20 years) to strengthen the predictability and continuity of operations. Longer permit terms have been opposed because they potentially reduce the opportunities to analyze the impact of grazing on lands and resources.

The effect of livestock grazing on rangelands has been part of an ongoing debate on the health and productivity of rangelands. Due to concerns about the impact of grazing on rangelands, some recent measures would restrict or eliminate grazing, for instance, through voluntary retirement of permits and leases and subsequent closure of the allotments to grazing. These efforts are opposed by those who assert that ranching can benefit rangelands and who support ranching on federal lands for not only environmental but lifestyle and economic reasons. Another focus of the discussion on range health and productivity is the spread of invasive and noxious weeds. (See "Invasive Species" section below.)

Wild Horses and Burros

There is continued congressional interest in management of wild horses and burros, which are protected on BLM and FS lands under the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971.90 Under the act, the agencies inventory horse and burro populations on their lands to determine appropriate management levels (AMLs). While the agencies are authorized to remove animals exceeding the range's carrying capacity, both BLM and FS have populations exceeding their national AMLs. Most of the animals are on BLM lands. BLM estimates AML at 26,715 wild horses and burros, and it estimates population on the range at 67,027. Off the range, BLM provides funds to care for 45,769 additional wild horses and burros in short-term corrals and long-term (pasture) holding facilities.91

The agencies use a variety of methods to meet AML, including programs to adopt and sell animals; care for animals off-range; administer fertility control; and establish ecosanctuaries. Questions for Congress include the sufficiency of these authorities for managing wild horses and burros. Another controversial question is whether the agencies should humanely destroy excess animals, as required under the 1971 law, or whether Congress should continue to prohibit funds from being used to slaughter healthy animals. Additional issues center on the costs of management, particularly the relatively high cost of caring for animals off-range.92 Also, some recent proposals have focused on options for keeping animals on the range, such as by expanding areas for herds and changing the method for determining AML.

CRS Products

CRS Report RS21232, Grazing Fees: Overview and Issues, by [author name scrubbed].

CRS Report RL34690, Wild Horses and Burros: Issues and Proposals, by [author name scrubbed].

Recreation

The abundance and diversity of recreational uses of federal lands and waters has increased the challenge of balancing different types of recreation with each other and with other land uses. One issue is how—or whether—fees should be collected for recreational activities on federal lands. The Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA) established a recreation fee program for the four FLMAs and the Bureau of Reclamation.93 The authorization ends on September 30, 2018.94 FLREA authorizes the agencies to charge, collect, and spend fees for recreation on their lands, with most of the money remaining at the collecting site. The 115th Congress faces issues including whether to extend, make permanent, or amend the program. Supporters of the program contend that it sets fair and similar fees among agencies and keeps most fees on-site for improvements that visitors desire. Some support new or increased fees or extension of the program to other agencies, especially the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Among critics, some oppose recreation fees in general. Others assert that fees are appropriate for fewer agencies or types of lands, that the fee structure should be simplified, or that more of the fees should be used to reduce agency maintenance backlogs.

Another contentious issue is the use of off-highway vehicles (OHVs)—all-terrain vehicles, snowmobiles, personal watercraft, and others—on federal lands and waters. OHVs are a popular recreational use on BLM and FS land, while NPS and FWS have fewer lands allowing them. OHV supporters contend that the vehicles facilitate visitor access to hard-to-reach natural areas and bring economic benefits to communities serving riders. Critics raise concerns about disturbance of nonmotorized recreation and potential damage to wildlife habitat and ecosystems. Issues for Congress include broad questions of OHV access and management, as well as OHV use at individual parks, forests, conservation areas, and other federal sites.

Access to opportunities on federal lands for hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting (e.g., at shooting ranges) also has been under debate. Hunting and fishing are allowed on the majority of federal lands, but some contend they are unnecessarily restricted by protective designations, barriers to physical access, and agency planning processes. Others question whether opening more FLMA lands to hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting is fully consistent with good game management, public safety, other recreational uses, resource management, and the statutory purposes of the lands.

CRS Products

CRS In Focus IF10151, Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act: Overview and Issues, by [author name scrubbed].

CRS Report R42920, Motorized Recreation on Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service Lands, by [author name scrubbed] and [author name scrubbed].

CRS Report R42955, Motorized Recreation on National Park Service Lands, by [author name scrubbed], [author name scrubbed], and [author name scrubbed].

Other Land Designations and Issues

Congress and the Administration establish individual designations on federal lands. Although many of the designations are unique, some have been more commonly applied, such as national recreation area, national scenic area, or national monument. Congress has conferred designations on some nonfederal lands, such as national heritage areas, to commemorate, conserve, and promote important natural, scenic, historical, cultural, and recreational resources. Congress and the Administration also have designated certain offshore areas as marine national monuments or sanctuaries. The extent to which Congress and the Administration should expand or reduce these systems and establish other designations on federal lands and the types, locations, and management of such designations continues to be controversial.

In addition, Congress has created three cross-cutting systems of federal land designations to preserve or emphasize particular values or resources, or to protect the natural conditions for biological, recreation, or scenic purposes. These systems are the congressionally designated National Wilderness Preservation System, National Wild and Scenic Rivers System, and the National Trails System. The units of these systems can be on one or more agency's lands, and the agencies manage them within parameters set in statute.

CRS Products

CRS Report RL33462, Heritage Areas: Background, Proposals, and Current Issues, by [author name scrubbed] and [author name scrubbed].

CRS Report R41285, Congressionally Designated Special Management Areas in the National Forest System, by [author name scrubbed].

National Monuments and the Antiquities Act

The Antiquities Act of 1906 authorizes the President to proclaim national monuments on federal lands that contain historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, or other objects of natural, historic, or scientific interest.95 The President is to reserve "the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected."96 Sixteen of the 19 Presidents since 1906, including President Obama, have used this authority to proclaim national monuments. Congress has modified many of these proclamations, abolished some monuments, and created monuments under its own authority.

Presidential establishment of monuments sometimes has been contentious. For instance, Congress limited the President's authority by requiring congressional authorization for extensions or establishment of monuments in Wyoming.97 Congress also made withdrawals in Alaska exceeding 5,000 acres subject to congressional approval.98

Monument opponents seek to revoke or impose restrictions on the President's authority to proclaim monuments. Among the bills considered in recent Congresses are those to block monuments from being declared in particular states; limit the size or duration of withdrawals; require the approval of Congress, the pertinent state legislature, or the pertinent governor before a monument could be proclaimed; or promote presidential creation of monuments in accordance with certain federal land management and environmental laws.

Monument supporters defend the President's authority to act promptly to protect valuable resources on federal lands that may be vulnerable to looting, vandalism, and commercial development, and they note that Presidents of both parties have used the authority for over a century. They favor the Antiquities Act in its present form, asserting that the courts have upheld monument designations and that large segments of the public support monument designations for the recreational, preservation, and economic benefits that such designations can bring.

CRS Product

CRS Report R41330, National Monuments and the Antiquities Act, by [author name scrubbed].

Wilderness and Roadless Areas

In 1964, the Wilderness Act created the National Wilderness Preservation System, with statutory protections that emphasize preserving areas in their natural state. Units of the system can be designated only by Congress. Many bills to designate wilderness areas have been introduced in each Congress. As of January 2017, there were 765 wilderness areas, totaling nearly 110 million acres in 44 states (and Puerto Rico) and managed by all four of the FLMAs. A wilderness designation generally prohibits commercial activities, motorized access, and human infrastructure from wilderness areas, subject to valid existing rights. Advocates propose wilderness designations to preserve the generally undeveloped conditions of the areas. Opponents see such designations as preventing certain uses and potential economic development in rural areas where such opportunities are relatively limited.

Designation of new wilderness areas can be controversial, and questions persist over the management of areas being considered for wilderness designation. FS reviews the wilderness potential of NFS lands during the forest planning process and recommends any identified potential wilderness areas for congressional consideration.99 Management activities or uses that may reduce the wilderness potential of a recommended wilderness area may be restricted.100

Questions also persist over BLM wilderness study areas (WSAs). WSAs are the areas BLM studied as potential wilderness, and BLM is required by FLPMA to protect their wilderness characteristics "until Congress determines otherwise." This has raised legal questions, including whether release language is needed to allow multiple use management of WSAs not designated as wilderness. Congress has designated some WSAs as wilderness, and generally in the same statutes, Congress has released BLM from the requirement to protect the wilderness characteristics of certain other areas.

FS also manages approximately 58 million acres of lands identified as "inventoried roadless areas."101 These lands are not part of the National Wilderness Preservation System, but certain activities—such as road construction or timber harvesting—are restricted on these lands, with some exceptions. The Clinton and George W. Bush Administrations each proposed different roadless area policies. Both were heavily litigated; however, the Clinton policy to prohibit many activities on roadless areas remains intact after the Supreme Court refused to review a lower court's decision in 2012.102

CRS Products

CRS Report RL31447, Wilderness: Overview, Management, and Statistics, by [author name scrubbed].

CRS Report R41610, Wilderness: Issues and Legislation, by [author name scrubbed] and [author name scrubbed].

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: Energy Development or Wilderness?

In the ongoing energy debate in Congress, one issue has been whether to approve energy development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in northeastern Alaska—and if so, under what conditions—or whether to continue prohibiting development to protect the area's biological, recreational, and subsistence values.103 ANWR is rich in fauna, flora, and oil and natural gas potential, but energy development is currently prohibited by law.104 Its development has been debated for more than 50 years, and sharp periodic increases in energy prices have intensified the debate at times. Low energy prices negate the short-term incentives for developing ANWR because Alaskan production is relatively costly. The ANWR debate was given new impetus in 2015 by a refuge management plan that includes a proposal to designate the area as wilderness.105 If approved by Congress, this designation would reinforce the existing prohibition on energy development, and it would be an additional law requiring repeal if energy development were to be allowed.

CRS Product

CRS Report RL33872, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR): A Primer for the 114th Congress, by [author name scrubbed] and [author name scrubbed].

The National Wild and Scenic Rivers System and the National Trails System

The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968 created the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.106 The act established a policy of preserving designated free-flowing rivers for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations. River units designated as part of the system are classified and administered as wild, scenic, or recreational rivers, based on the condition of the river, the amount of development in the river or on the shorelines, and the degree of accessibility by road or trail at the time of designation. The system contains both federal and nonfederal river segments. Typically, rivers are added to the system by an act of Congress, but may also be added by state nomination with the approval of the Secretary of the Interior. As of December 2016, there are 208 river units with 12,709 miles in 40 states and Puerto Rico, administered by all four FLMAs, or by state, local, or tribal governments.

Designation and management of lands within river corridors has been controversial in some cases. Issues include concerns about private property rights and water rights within designated river corridors. Controversies have arisen over state or federal projects prohibited within a corridor, such as construction of major highway crossings, bridges, or other activities that might affect the flow or character of the designated river segment. The extent of local input in developing river management plans is another recurring issue.

The National Trails System Act of 1968 authorized a national system of trails, across federal and nonfederal lands, to provide additional outdoor recreation opportunities and to promote access to the outdoor areas and historic resources of the nation.107 The system today includes 30 national trails (11 national scenic trails and 19 national historic trails), more than 1,200 national recreation trails, and 6 connecting-and-side trails. The system covers almost 55,000 miles and can be found in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. National trails are administered by FS, NPS, and BLM, in cooperation with appropriate state and local authorities. Most recreation uses are permitted, as are other uses or facilities that do not substantially interfere with the nature and purposes of the trail. However, motorized vehicles are prohibited on many trails.

Ongoing issues for Congress include whether to designate additional trails, how to balance trail designation with other potential land uses, what activities should be permitted on trails, and what portion of trail funding should be from federal versus nonfederal sources, among other concerns. Some Members have expressed interest in new types of trails for the system, such as "national discovery trails," which would be interstate trails connecting representative examples of metropolitan, urban, rural, and backcountry regions.

CRS Products

CRS Report R42614, The National Wild and Scenic Rivers System: A Brief Overview, by [author name scrubbed] and [author name scrubbed].

CRS Report R43868, The National Trails System: A Brief Overview, by [author name scrubbed] and [author name scrubbed].

CRS Report R41081, The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (WSRA): Protections, Federal Water Rights, and Development Restrictions, by [author name scrubbed].

National Marine Sanctuaries and Marine National Monuments

The National Marine Sanctuaries Act (NMSA)108 authorizes the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to designate specific areas for protection of their ecological, aesthetic, historical, cultural, scientific, or educational qualities. The NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries serves as the trustee for the 13 national marine sanctuaries (NMSs) designated under NMSA.109 Sanctuaries are located in U.S. coastal and offshore waters (including the Great Lakes) and also may include waters under state or federal jurisdiction.110 Sites are designated for specific reasons, such as protecting cultural artifacts (e.g., sunken vessels), particular species (e.g., humpback whales), or unique areas and entire ecosystems (e.g., Monterey Bay). Two areas currently under consideration for designation are Mallows Bay, Potomac River, Maryland and Lake Michigan (shipwrecks), Wisconsin.111

The NMSA requires the development and implementation of management plans for each sanctuary, which provides the basis for managing or limiting incompatible activities. For most NMSs, questions related to developing or amending management plans have focused on identifying and limiting incompatible activities.

Five large marine national monuments have been designated under the Antiquities Act, the most recent being the designation of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument in 2016 (see "National Monuments and the Antiquities Act" section, above),112 the first designated in the Atlantic Ocean. Within the monuments, the removing, taking, harvesting, possessing, injuring, or damaging of monument resources is prohibited except as provided under regulated activities. For example, some exceptions have been provided for recreational fishing and subsistence use within certain marine national monuments. All five marine national monuments are managed cooperatively by the Department of the Interior (FWS) and Department of Commerce (NOAA).113

One of the main differences between national marine sanctuaries and marine national monuments is their designation. While monuments are designated by Presidential Proclamation, the NMS designation process is an administrative action, requiring nomination, public scoping, public comment, and congressional and state review. Some extractive industries, such as members of the fishing industry, have voiced concerns that national monument designation does not provide opportunities to examine the tradeoffs between resource protection and resource use. On the other hand, some environmentalists have voiced concerns with the low number of NMS designations and inadequate protection of some sanctuary resources such as fish populations. Some observers question whether the overriding purpose of the NMSA is to preserve and protect marine areas or to create multiple use management areas.114 Most agree that the designation and management of sanctuaries and marine national monuments will continue to inspire debate over the role of marine protected areas.

CRS Product

CRS Report RL32154, Marine Protected Areas: An Overview, by [author name scrubbed].

Species Management

Each federal land agency has a responsibility to manage the plant and animal resources under its purview. An agency's responsibilities may be based on widely applicable statutes or authorities, including the Endangered Species Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act, executive orders, and others. But the agencies considered in this report also have more specific authorities in their own organic acts or in site-specific legislation.

In the case of the National Wildlife Refuge System, the conservation of plants and animals is the mission of the system, and other uses are allowed to the extent they are compatible with that mission.115 While most refuges are open for public enjoyment, in some cases (such as island seabird colonies), a refuge may be closed to visitors. For the National Park System, resource conservation (including wildlife resources) is half of the Park Service's dual mission, shared with the other goal of public enjoyment. The missions of FS and BLM are multiple use, with species management being one of several agency responsibilities.

The federal land management agencies do not exercise their wildlife authorities alone. Federal agencies share management of their wildlife resources with state agencies. For example, where game species are found on federal land and hunting is not expressly forbidden on that land, federal agencies work with states on wildlife censuses and require appropriate state licenses to hunt on the federal lands. In addition, the agencies often cooperate with states to enhance wildlife habitat to the benefit of both jurisdictions.

The four land-management agencies do not maintain data on how many acres of land are open to hunting, fishing, and/or recreational shooting.116 However, both BLM and FS estimate that the vast majority of their lands are open to these activities. FS estimates that more than 95% of its lands are open to those activities; BLM estimates that 99% of its lands are open to hunting, 97% are open to recreational shooting, and virtually all are open to fishing.117 Among the FWS's 772 wildlife refuges and waterfowl production areas, more than 360 are open to some form of hunting and more than 300 units offer fishing opportunities.118 As of February 2014, hunting was permitted in 61 of the 401 NPS units and fishing was permitted in in 200 units.119

Congress typically considers species management issues, such as how to balance land and resources use, when the protection of endangered and threatened species force the recognition of trade-offs among user groups. These conflicts are usually regional over resources, such as surface or ground water, timber, or shorelines, to name a few.

Endangered Species

The protection of endangered and threatened species—under the 1973 Endangered Species Act (ESA)120—is controversial, in part, because dwindling species are often harbingers of resource scarcity and ecosystem health and resilience. Under the ESA, all federal agencies must "utilize their authorities in furtherance of the purposes of this Act by carrying out programs for the conservation of endangered species and threatened species listed pursuant to ... this Act."121 As a result, the FLMAs specifically must consider listed species in their land management plans, timber sales, energy or mineral leasing plans, and all other relevant aspects of their activities. They must consult with FWS (or NMFS, for most marine species and for anadromous fish such as salmon) about those effects. The majority of these consultations result in little or no change in the actions of the land managers. But some result in major controversies over the appropriate balance of land and resource use with protection of endangered and threatened species, often with some user groups allied with the listed species.

The ESA may become a focus of debate, particularly where conservation of a species signals conflict over resources in various habitats. These species include sage grouse (energy and other resources in sage brush habitat) and polar bears (energy development in northern Alaska), among others. Conflicts arise once a species is listed, because legal tools, including penalties and citizen suits, are available to aid species recovery and protect habitat. Use of these tools, or the failure to use them, has led to conflict.122 Proposals resulting from such conflicts include granting greater authority to states over whether a species may be listed, granting priority for water projects over species recovery, and limiting the ability of citizen's groups to petition for listing new species.

CRS Products

CRS Report R42945, The Endangered Species Act (ESA) in the 113th Congress: New and Recurring Issues, coordinated by [author name scrubbed].

CRS Report RL31654, The Endangered Species Act: A Primer, by [author name scrubbed].

CRS Report RL32992, The Endangered Species Act and "Sound Science", by [author name scrubbed].

Invasive Species

While habitat loss is a major factor in the decline of species, invasive species have long been considered the second most important factor.123 Invasive species may affect some of the key resources on federal lands. For example, gypsy moths have been a pest in eastern hardwoods, including national forests and Shenandoah National Park. In recent years, a fungus causing white-nose syndrome has devastated bat populations in eastern states including those in caves on national park and national forest lands. Rats and cats threaten seabirds on coastal refuges, and goats harm rare native plant species on park units in Hawaii. In some cases, such as white-nose syndrome, no method of control is yet known, and current work is confined to research and prevention.124 In other cases, such as the vegetation damage caused by non-native horses and burros, some control methods are considered inhumane, and others are considered expensive. Addressing invasive species is a responsibility shared by multiple federal agencies. In general, funding for detection, prevention, and control of invasive species on federal lands (and elsewhere) has been an issue. Congress may consider legislation to address invasive species management on federal lands.

CRS Product

CRS Report R43258, Invasive Species: Major Laws and the Role of Selected Federal Agencies, by [author name scrubbed] and [author name scrubbed].

Wildfire Management

Wildfire is a concern because it can lead to loss of human life, damage communities and timber resources, and affect soils, watersheds, water quality, and wildlife. Management of wildfire—an unplanned and unwanted fire—includes preparedness, suppression, fuel reduction, site rehabilitation, and more.125 A record-setting 10.1 million acres burned in 2015 due to wildfire, based on historical fire statistics, which were first reported in 1960.126 In 2016, 5.4 million acres burned.127

The federal government is responsible for managing wildfires that begin on federal land. FS and DOI have overseen wildfire management, with FS receiving approximately two-thirds of federal funding.128 Although wildfires can occur on federal, state, or private lands, some 95% of the funding is used to protect federal lands. Wildfire management funding—including supplemental appropriations—has averaged $3.6 billion annually over the last 10 years, ranging from a low of $2.6 billion in FY2012 to a high of $4.9 billion in FY2016.129

Congressional activity regarding wildfire management typically peaks during the fire season, and during the early part of the budget process.130 Legislative issues for Congress include oversight of the agencies' fire management activities and other wildland management practices that have altered fuel loads over time and consideration of programs and processes for reducing fuel loads. Funding also is a perennial concern, particularly for suppression purposes, an activity whose costs are generally rising but vary annually and are difficult to predict. There is also congressional interest in the federal roles and responsibilities for wildfire protection, response, and damages, including activities such as air tanker readiness and efficacy and liability issues. Another issue is the impact of the expanding wildland-urban interface (WUI), which has increased the wildfire threat to people and houses. Approximately 10% of all land within the lower 48 states is classified as WUI.131

CRS Products

CRS Report R44082, Wildfire Suppression Spending: Background, Issues, and Legislation, by [author name scrubbed], [author name scrubbed], and [author name scrubbed].

CRS In Focus IF10244, Wildfire Statistics, by [author name scrubbed].

CRS Report R43077, Wildfire Management Appropriations: Data, Trends, and Issues, by [author name scrubbed] and [author name scrubbed].

CRS Report RS21880, Wildfire Protection in the Wildland-Urban Interface, by [author name scrubbed] and [author name scrubbed].

CRS Report R40811, Wildfire Fuels and Fuel Reduction, by [author name scrubbed].

CRS Report R41858, Federal Assistance for Wildfire Response and Recovery, by [author name scrubbed].

CRS Report RL34517, Wildfire Damages to Homes and Resources: Understanding Causes and Reducing Losses, by [author name scrubbed].

CRS Report RL30755, Forest Fire/Wildfire Protection, by [author name scrubbed].

Author Contact Information

[author name scrubbed], Coordinator, Specialist in Natural Resources Policy ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])
[author name scrubbed], Specialist in Agricultural Conservation and Natural Resources Policy ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])
[author name scrubbed], Analyst in Natural Resources Policy ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])
[author name scrubbed], Specialist in Natural Resources Policy ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])
[author name scrubbed], Specialist in Energy Policy ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])
[author name scrubbed], Information Research Specialist ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])
[author name scrubbed], Analyst in Natural Resources Policy ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])
[author name scrubbed], Specialist in Natural Resources Policy ([email address scrubbed], [phone number scrubbed])

Footnotes

1.

For a listing of CRS products on federal land issues, see CRS Issue Areas, Energy and Natural Resources: Federal Land Management at http://www.crs.gov/iap/energy-and-natural-resources.

2.

Total federal land in the United States is not definitively known. As of September 30, 2015, the four major federal land management agencies (FLMAs) managed a total of 610 million acres in the 50 States (612 million acres including territorial acreage); joint management of some areas or the inclusion of lands under easements or leases could adjust this figure. Inclusion of marine protected areas would increase this figure considerably. For additional information on acres managed by the four FLMAs and the Department of Defense, by state, see CRS Report R42346, Federal Land Ownership: Overview and Data, by [author name scrubbed], [author name scrubbed], and [author name scrubbed].

3.

In this report, the term federal land is used to refer to any land owned (fee simple title) and managed by the federal government, regardless of its mode of acquisition or managing agency; unless otherwise stated, it excludes lands administered by a federal agency under easements, leases, contracts, or other arrangements. Also unless otherwise stated, acreage totals exclude federal lands for which the FLMA has secondary jurisdiction (another federal agency has primary jurisdiction and the lands are counted with that agency). Throughout the report, the term federal land may also include submerged federal lands where appropriate.

4.

This report focuses on federal land managed by the four major FLMAs, plus the submerged lands managed by the Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management (BOEM). Issues related to land management by other agencies, such as the Bureau of Indian Affairs or Department of Defense, are covered in other CRS products.

5.

The terms "federal waters," "U.S. exclusive economic zone (EEZ)" and "U.S. outer continental shelf (OCS)" might be used interchangeably in some policy contexts; however, each term can refer to a different geographical area.

6.

This report does not address the management of surface or groundwater resources on federal lands. For more information on these issues, see the Water Resources Management subissue at http://www.crs.gov/iap/energy-and-natural-resources.

7.

Forest Service (FS), Land Areas Report, as of September 30, 2016, Table 1, at http://www.fs.fed.us/land/staff/lar/LAR2016/Table-1-NationalandRegionalAreaSummary.pdf.

8.

P.L. 86-517; 16 U.S.C. §§528-531.

9.

The Wilderness Act of 1964 (P.L. 88-577; 16. U.S.C. §§1131-1136) established wilderness as a management responsibility for all of the federal land management agencies.

10.

16 U.S.C. §531(a).

11.

P.L. 93-378; 16 U.S.C. §§1600, et seq.

12.

P.L. 94-588, 16 U.S.C. §§1600, et seq.

13.

These two agencies were the Grazing Service, established in 1934 to administer grazing on public rangelands, and the General Land Office, established in 1812 to oversee the disposal of the federal lands. For more information, see Paul W. Gates, History of Public Land Law Development, written for the Public Land Law Review Commission (Washington, DC: GPO, November 1968), pp. 610-622.

14.

The 12 western states are Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

15.

Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Public Land Statistics, 2015, Table 1-4, at http://www.blm.gov/public_land_statistics/index.htm. FY2015 acreage is the most recent available.

16.

P.L. 94-579; 43 U.S.C. §§1701, et seq.

17.

Executive Order 1014, "Enlarging Pelican Island Reservation, Florida," March 13, 1903.

18.

Land ownership statistics in this section are the most recent available and are taken from Fish and Wildlife Service, Statistical Data Tables for Fish & Wildlife Service Lands (as of 9/30/2015), Washington, DC, 2016, https://www.fws.gov/refuges/land/LandReport.html.

19.

FWS manages these marine national monuments in coordination with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which has responsibility for fisheries management in these areas. The monuments generally surround remote Pacific islands, and may have a small core area that is part of the NWRS. See "National Marine Sanctuaries and Marine National Monuments" section in this report for more information on marine national monuments.

20.

Act of August 25, 1916; 16 U.S.C. §§1-4.

21.

For a discussion of the different park titles, see CRS Report R41816, National Park System: What Do the Different Park Titles Signify?, by [author name scrubbed]. Seven units were added to the system during the 114th Congress, all of them national monuments proclaimed by President Obama.

22.

52.5 million federal acres, 65% of the National Park Service (NPS) total.

23.

Department of the Interior (DOI) Secretarial Order 3299, "Establishment of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, and the Office of Natural Resources Revenue," May 19, 2010, at http://elips.doi.gov/ELIPS/0/doc/444/Page1.aspx.

24.

In June 2010, as part of the DOI response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, former Interior secretary Ken Salazar changed the name of the agency to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement (BOEMRE). BOEMRE was subsequently split into three agencies: the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) and the Office of Natural Resources Revenue (ONRR). See DOI Secretarial Order 3302, "Change of the Name of the Minerals Management Service to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement," June 18, 2010, at http://elips.doi.gov/elips/0/doc/165/Page1.aspx.

25.

43 U.S.C. §1331 et. seq. Generally, the outer continental shelf (OCS) begins 3-9 nautical miles from shore (depending on the state) and extends 200 nautical miles outward, or farther if the continental shelf extends beyond 200 miles; see 43 U.S.C. §1331(a). Federal jurisdiction can be subject to principles of international law. After 1978, the OCSLA statutory framework incorporated certain requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA, 42 U.S.C. §4321). Separately, the United States declared its EEZ, extending no more than 200 nautical miles from the territorial sea baseline, in Presidential Proclamation No. 5030, 48 Federal Register 10605, March 14, 1983. For more information, see NOAA, "What Is the EEZ?" at http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/eez.html.

26.

Not all of these acres contain extractable energy resources.

27.

P.L. 90-401 and P.L. 94-422, respectively. The Land and Water Conservation Fund is authorized to receive $900 million per year from OCS revenues. The Historic Preservation Fund is authorized to receive $150 million per year. Other OCS revenues are deposited in various accounts designated for states, other programs, and the General Treasury.

28.

Each agency emphasizes a different mission. The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement is responsible for safety permitting and environmental enforcement, and the Office of Natural Resources Revenue is responsible for collecting, auditing, and disbursing public revenues from offshore projects.

29.

43 U.S.C. §1344. The current five-year program for offshore oil and gas leasing went into effect August 27, 2012, and is expected to remain in effect until June 2017. BOEM, "2012-2017 OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program," at https://www.boem.gov/Five-Year-Program-2012-2017/. In November 2016, BOEM released its proposed final program for 2017-2022. For more information, see CRS Report R44504, The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management's Five-Year Program for Offshore Oil and Gas Leasing: History and Final Program for 2017-2022, by [author name scrubbed], [author name scrubbed], and [author name scrubbed].

30.

P.L. 109-58, §388(a).    

31.

Some stakeholders in the debate have argued that the equal footing doctrine relates to federal land ownership, although no court has supported that theory. The term equal footing comes from the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, and state enabling acts included the phrase that the state was admitted "into the Union on an equal Footing with the original States (See, e.g., Nevada Enabling Act, 13 Stat. 30). The U.S. Supreme Court has further clarified that equal footing does not mean, however, that physical or economic situations among states must be the same.

32.

U.S. Const. Article IV, Section 3, cl. 2.

33.

U.S. Const. Article VI, cl. 2.

34.

See United States v. San Francisco, 310 U.S. 16, 29 (1940) and Kleppe v. New Mexico, 426 U.S. 529, 542-43.

35.

In January 2016, these concerns were raised by private citizens and citizen groups who took over a visitor center at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Resulting charges against 25 individuals involved in the occupation and the death of one protester may provide a new focus for debate on federal land management and ownership. Charges were dropped against most defendants. In October 2016, seven defendants were acquitted of federal charges of conspiracy; other members of the occupying group await trial. For more information on earlier actions, see CRS Insight IN10427, Conflict and History at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, by [author name scrubbed].

36.

For example, Utah's enabling act (Act of July 16, 1984, §3, 28 Stat. 107) and Arizona's enabling act (Act of June 20, 1910, §20, 36 Stat. 568) respectively, provided that "the people inhabiting proposed State do agree and declare that they forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public lands lying within the boundaries thereof."

37.

43 U.S.C. §1715(a).

38.

16 U.S.C. §§715 et seq. The Migratory Bird Conservation Act permanently authorized and appropriated a fund supported through the sale of hunting and conservation stamps, import duties on arms and ammunition, and a portion of certain refuge entrance fees.

39.

Land and Water Conservation Fund Act of September 3, 1964; P.L. 88-578, 78 Stat. 897. 54 U.S.C. §§200301, et seq.

40.

Mandatory appropriations are provided to the state grant program under §105, Division C, P.L. 109-432.

41.

These figures are estimated through FY2016.

42.

A program commonly referred to as Impact Aid supports local schools based on the presence of children of federal employees, including military dependents. It provides some support to local governments, however, and to some extent it compensates for lost property-tax revenue when military families live on federally owned land. For more information, see CRS Report RL33960, The Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as Amended by the No Child Left Behind Act: A Primer, by [author name scrubbed].

43.

As authorized by the Payments in Lieu of Taxes Act, P.L. 94-565, 31 U.S.C. §§6901-6907. PILT is administered by DOI and affects most of the lands managed by the FLMAs, with some exceptions. The authorized payment level is calculated using a complicated formula. For more information, see CRS Report RL31392, PILT (Payments in Lieu of Taxes): Somewhat Simplified, by [author name scrubbed].

44.

30 U.S.C. §181.

45.

43 U.S.C. §1337(g). The shared revenues are those from leases on tracts that lie within 3 nautical miles of the seaward boundary of a coastal state. The majority of offshore revenues go to the LWCF, discussed above, the Historic Preservation Fund, and the U.S. Treasury.

46.

P.L. 109-432.

47.

The four states are Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas.

48.

This definition is taken from the Statement of Federal Financial Accounting Standards No. 6, p. 31, available on the website of the Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board at http://www.fasab.gov/pdffiles/sffas-6.pdf.

49.

The NPS estimate is $11.9 billion including assets which the NPS does not own.

50.

The estimates of deferred maintenance of DOI agencies were provided to CRS by DOI on February 16, 2016. The FS estimate is contained in FS, Fiscal Year 2017 Budget Justification, p. 411, at http://www.fs.fed.us/about-agency/budget-performance.

51.

FY2015 deferred maintenance figures are the most recent available for the four agencies.

52.

For more discussion of climate change science, see National Research Council, Advancing the Science of Climate Change, 2010. See also CRS Report R43229, Climate Change Science: Key Points, by [author name scrubbed].

53.

Gregory T. Pederson, Stephen T. Gray, and Daniel B. Fagre, Long-Duration Drought Variability and Impacts on Ecosystem Services: A Case Study from Glacier National Park, Montana, U.S. Geologic Survey, Earth Interactions, volume 10, paper 4, January 2006, at http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/pubs/pederson2006/pederson2006.html.

54.

The Mining in the Parks Act of 1976 (16 U.S.C. §§1901 et seq.) closed all NPS units to the location of new mining claims, although existing claims must still be honored (see 36 C.F.R. Part 9B). P.L. 95-495 §11(a) is an example of a wilderness designation that withdrew the area from mining and mineral exploration.

55.

Data from https://www.onrr.gov/about/production-data.htm and http://useiti.doi.gov/explore/#federal-production (for all data except U.S. coal production). Calendar year data obtained December 2016.

56.

BLM, "Geothermal Energy," at http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/prog/energy/geothermal.html.

57.

The general statutory framework for solar and wind energy development on federal lands is contained within Title V of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, under its provisions for rights-of-way (ROW) grants (43 U.S.C. 1761).

58.

BLM, Budget Justifications, FY2017, p. VII-98.

59.

30 U.S.C. §181. EPAct05 amended the MLA and also included provisions governing access, leasing, and management of energy development on BLM and FS lands.

60.

Exceptions include most BLM and FS lands classified as wilderness, lands incorporated in cities and towns, and lands that have otherwise been administratively or statutorily withdrawn from entry.

61.

Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct05; P.L. 109-58, 42 U.S.C. §15801 et seq.)

62.

DOI, BLM, "Waste Prevention, Production Subject to Royalties, and Resource Conservation," 81 Federal Register 83008, November 18, 2016.

63.

U.S. Government Accountability Office, Coal Leasing: BLM Could Enhance Appraisal Process, More Explicitly Consider Coal Exports, and Provide More Public Information, GAO-14-140, December 2013, at http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/659801.pdf.

64.

DOI, Office of Inspector General, Coal Management Program, CR-EV-BLM-0001-2012, June 11, 2013, at http://www.doi.gov/oig/reports/upload/CR-EV-BLM-0001-2012Public.pdf.

65.

DOI, Natural Resources Revenue Office, "Consolidated Federal Oil and Gas and Federal and Indian Coal Valuation Reform," 80 Federal Register 2014-30033, January 6, 2015.

66.

Secretarial Order # 3338: Discretionary PEIS to Modernize the Federal Coal Program, January 15, 2016.

67.

BLM, "New Energy for America," at http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/prog/energy/renewable_energy.html, May 17, 2016.

68.

30 U.S.C. §§1001-1028.

69.

43 U.S.C. §§1761-1771.

70.

Woody biomass is defined by FS and BLM as the trees and woody plants, including limbs, tops, needles, leaves, and other woody parts, grown in a forest, woodland, or rangeland environment that are the byproducts of forest management.

71.

For more information on the renewable fuel standard, see CRS Report R43325, The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS): In Brief, by [author name scrubbed], and CRS Report R40155, Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS): Overview and Issues, by [author name scrubbed] and [author name scrubbed].

72.

Management of non-locatable minerals (e.g., sand, gravel, and stone) on federal lands is governed by the Materials Act of 1947.

73.

That is, public domain lands that have not otherwise been closed to entry through wilderness designation or other restrictions.

74.

The fees are to be adjusted every five years based on the Consumer Price Index (30 U.S.C. §28 j (c)).

75.

OCSLA, 43 U.S.C. §§1331 et. seq.

76.

Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Budget Justifications and Performance Information, Fiscal Year 2017, p. 14, at https://www.boem.gov/BOEM-FY-2017-Budget-Justification/.

77.

See BOEM, "2017-2022 Oil and Gas Leasing Program," at http://www.boem.gov/Five-Year-Program-2017-2022/. Additional lease sales in the Alaska and Atlantic regions that had been proposed in earlier versions of the program were not ultimately included.

78.

43 U.S.C. §1341.

79.

Presidential Memorandum, "Withdrawal of Certain Areas off the Atlantic Coast on the Outer Continental Shelf from Mineral Leasing," December 20, 2016, at https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/12/20/presidential-memorandum-withdrawal-certain-areas-atlantic-coast-outer; Presidential Memorandum, "Withdrawal of Certain Portions of the United States Arctic Outer Continental Shelf from Mineral Leasing," December 20, 2016, at https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/12/20/presidential-memorandum-withdrawal-certain-portions-united-states-arctic; Executive Order 13754, "North Bering Sea Climate Resilience," December 9, 2016, at https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2016-12-14/pdf/2016-30277.pdf..

80.

Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, P.L. 109-432, Division C, Title I.

81.

P.L. 109-58, §388(a). For more information about deployment of renewable energy projects, see https://www.boem.gov/Renewable-Energy/.

82.

See BOEM, "Renewable Energy Programs: Lease and Grant Information," at http://www.boem.gov/Lease-and-Grant-Information/. The 12 leases include 10 individual lease sales and 2 noncompetitive leases. In addition, BOEM issued several "interim policy" leases for resource data collection and testing, prior to development of its renewable energy leasing regulations (see BOEM, "Interim Policy," at http://www.boem.gov/Renewable-Energy-Interim-Policy/).

83.

The remaining 4.6 million acres consist of national grasslands, land utilization projects, purchase units, and research and experimental areas. Data from Table 1, Forest Service, Land Areas Report, as of September 30, 2016, https://www.fs.fed.us/land/staff/lar/LAR2016/Table-1-NationalandRegionalAreaSummary.pdf.

84.

Forest Service, Cut and Sold Reports, available at http://www.fs.fed.us/forestmanagement/products/sold-harvest/cut-sold.shtml.

85.

The Oregon & California Railroad Lands Act of 1937, also known as the Act of August 28, 1937, ch. 876, 16 U.S.C. §§1181a et seq.

86.

Personal communication between [author name scrubbed] of CRS and BLM Division of Legislative Affairs, December, 2016.

87.

P.L. 95-514, 92 Stat. 1803; 43 U.S.C. §§1901, 1905. Executive Order 12548, 51 Fed. Reg. 5985 (February 19, 1986).

88.

This fee is in effect through February 28, 2017.

89.

BLM defines an AUM, for fee purposes, as a month's use and occupancy of the range by one animal unit, which includes one yearling, one cow and her calf, one horse, or five sheep or goats. The FS uses head-month (HD-MO) as its measurement for use and occupancy of FS lands. AUM is used in this report to cover both HD-MO and AUM.

90.

16 U.S.C. §§1331 et seq.

91.

The on-range figure of 67,027 is current as of March 1, 2016. The off-range figures are current as of October 20, 2016.

92.

About two-thirds of BLM's overall funding for wild horses and burros is used to care for animals off-range. For instance, in FY2015 BLM received a total appropriation of $77.2 million for wild horses and burros; $49.4 million (64%) was used for off-range care.

93.

Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA; P.L. 108-447, 16 U.S.C. §§6801-6814).

94.

FLREA has been extended by a series of laws, most recently P.L. 114-223.

95.

54 U.S.C. §320301.

96.

54 U.S.C. §320301(b).

97.

54 U.S.C. §320301(d).

98.

16 U.S.C. §3213.

99.

36 C.F.R. § 219.7(c)(v).

100.

36 C.F.R. § 219.10(b)(iv).

101.

This figure, 58 million acres, is the reported and estimated acreage of inventoried roadless areas as published in 36 C.F.R. §294. This figure has not been updated since 2001 and does not reflect any acreage adjustments since that time, such as if Congress designated a new wilderness area from within an inventoried roadless area.

102.

Wyoming v. Department of Agriculture, 133 S.Ct. 417 (2012).

103.

For more information, see CRS Report RL33872, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR): A Primer for the 114th Congress, by [author name scrubbed] and [author name scrubbed].

104.

Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA, P.L. 96-487, §1003; 16 U.S.C. §3143).

105.

See Comprehensive Conservation Plan at https://www.fws.gov/refuge/arctic/conservation.html.

106.

P.L. 90-542, 16 U.S.C. §1271 et seq.

107.

P.L. 90-543; 16 U.S.C. §1241 et seq.

108.

National Marine Sanctuaries Act, 16 U.S.C. §1431 et seq.

109.

Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary is located in the Great Lakes.

110.

There are no national marine sanctuaries or monuments in federal or state waters adjacent to Alaska.

111.

See Sanctuary Nomination Process at http://www.nominate.noaa.gov/nominations/.

112.

U.S. President (Barack Obama), "Proclamation 9496, Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument," 81 Federal Register 65161-65167, September 21, 2016.

113.

For specific monuments management partners include Department of Defense, Department of State, American Samoa, State of Hawaii, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

114.

William L. Chandler and Hannah Gillelan, "The History and Evolution of the National Marine Sanctuaries Act," Environmental Law Reporter, vol. 34 (2004), pp. 10506-10565.

115.

National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966, 16 U.S.C. §668dd et seq. Where preexisting rights are not acquired, these also affect what may occur on FWS lands.

116.

Personal communication between Laura Comay of CRS and NPS (Chris Powell, Senior Congressional Affairs Specialist) and BLM (Division of Legislative Affairs), February 2014; Personal communication between [author name scrubbed] of CRS and FS (Tony Edwards, Legislative Affairs Specialist), February 2014; Personal communication between Lynne Corn of CRS and FWS (Martin Kodis, Deputy Chief, Division of Congressional and Legislative Affairs), February 2014.

117.

The FS estimate is from personal communication between [author name scrubbed] of CRS and Tony Edwards, FS Legislative Affairs Specialist, February 2014. The BLM estimate is from personal communication between BLM and Carol Hardy-Vincent of CRS, February 2014.

118.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, March 2015, https://www.fws.gov/refuges/about/faq.html.

119.

Personal communication between Laura Comay of CRS and Chris Powell, NPS Senior Congressional Affairs Specialist, February 21, 2014. Units may be completely open to hunting or fishing, or these activities may be permitted only in portions of the unit.

120.

P.L. 93-205, as amended; 16 U.S.C. §§1531-1543.

121.

16 U.S.C. §1536(a).

122.

A more detailed discussion of the major provisions of ESA is provided in CRS Report RL31654, The Endangered Species Act: A Primer, by [author name scrubbed] and [author name scrubbed].

123.

For example, see Randy G. Westbrooks, Invasive Plants: Changing the Landscape of America, Federal Interagency Committee for the Management of Noxious and Invasive Weeds, Washington, DC, 1998, p. 5.

124.

For an example of prevention efforts, see those at Mammoth Cave National Park, where the fungus has been found: http://www.nps.gov/maca/whitenose.htm.

125.

Preparedness is the range of tasks necessary to build, sustain, and improve the capability to protect against, respond to, and recover from wildfire incidents. Suppression is the work associated with extinguishing or confining a fire. Fuel reduction is manipulation, including combustion, or removal of fuels to reduce the likelihood of ignition and/or to lessen potential damage and resistance to control. Site rehabilitation is efforts undertaken generally within three years of a wildfire to repair or improve fire damaged lands unlikely to recover to a management approved condition, or to repair or replace minor facilities damaged by fire.

126.

After 2015, the next largest fire years on record for acres burned were 2006 (9.9 million acres) and 2007 (9.3 million acres), respectively. National Interagency Fire Center, Total Wildland Fires and Acres (2015), at http://www.nifc.gov/fireInfo/fireInfo_stats_totalFires.html.

127.

National Interagency Fire Center, Incident Management Situation Report for Friday, December 30, 2016, at https://www.nifc.gov/nicc/sitreprt.pdf. Final 2016 statistics have not been released as of publication of this report.

128.

Wildfire management is funded under the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies appropriations bill. For more information on federal funding for wildfire management, see CRS Report R44082, Wildfire Suppression Spending: Background, Issues, and Legislation, by [author name scrubbed], [author name scrubbed], and [author name scrubbed], and CRS Report R43077, Wildfire Management Appropriations: Data, Trends, and Issues, by [author name scrubbed] and [author name scrubbed].

129.

Ibid.

130.

The fires season generally starts in mid- or late summer and ends in mid- or late fall. Factors such as wind, drought, precipitation events from the previous year, and more contribute to the length and severity of the fire season.

131.

Forest Service, Wildfire, Wildlands, and People: Understanding and Preparing for Wildfire in the Wildland-Urban Interface, GTR-299, January 2013.