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Public Lands

Bureau of Land Managment Districts

Federal agencies manage more than 75% of the land in the Lakes Basin, located in southeast Oregon. One of the largest federal land managers is the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which manages more than 58% of the land in the basin. Within the Lakes Basin, the BLM manages three districts: Burns, Vale, and Lakeview.

Burns District

The Burns District is composed of two resource areas: the Three Rivers Resource Area and the Andrews Resource Area. The Burns District encompasses over 3 million acres of land in southeastern Oregon, stretching from the Nevada border in the south to the Blue Mountains in the north. The Steens Mountain Cooperative Management Area is located within the district. For more information on Steens Mountain, visit our feature story, the Steens Mountain Cooperative Management Area. The district also contains eight Herd Management Areas for wild horses, and is home to pronghorn antelope, California bighorn sheep, mule deer, and many species of birds and fish. The district also manages 9,000 acres of commercial forest, mainly Douglas-fir and ponderosa pine. In addition to Douglas-fir and ponderosa pine forest, the Burns district contains a diverse array of vegetation, including juniper woodlands, wetlands, and Great Basin sagebrush-bunchgrass habitat.

The Burns District manages lands with special conservation designations, including 23 Wilderness Study Areas, Donner und Blitzen National Wild and Scenic River, and Diamond Crater Natural Scenic Area. Visitors are welcome, and can participate in a number of activities. Hiking, camping, hunting, bird watching, and fishing are popular activities.

Vale District

The Vale District, one of the largest BLM districts in Oregon, encompasses over 5 million acres of public land along the entire eastern border of Oregon. The district boundary runs along the Snake River between Oregon and Idaho, encompassing eight counties, and extends into both Nevada and Washington. The district contains three resource areas: the Baker Resource Area, the Malheur Resource Area, and the Jordan Resource Area.

One of the outstanding land management programs within the Vale District is the Snake River Valley Firefighting Program. Developed by the BLM in 1963, this program produces the highest number of Type II wildland firefighters in the nation. Type II firefighters are generally management agency employees who function primarily as wildlife biologists, silviculturists, or recreation managers, but who gain qualifications as firefighters and participate in fire management when necessary. One unique aspect of the fire program is that, historically, the fire crews have been more than 85 percent Hispanic. The success of the program, which is taught in both Spanish and English, has enabled the Vale District to partner with fire management agencies in Mexico. Instructors from Mexico who have participated in the Vale program have been able to incorporate techniques and information into their own national fire management program. This international cooperation has led to improvements in training and curriculum for both countries.

Lakeview District

The Lakeview District is composed of two resource areas: the Klamath Falls Resource Area and the Lakeview Resource Area. The Lakeview District's boundary encompasses 3.5 million acres of land in Lake, Klamath, and Harney counties. Within the Lakeview District are two notable wetland areas: the 51,000-acre Warner Wetlands in Lake County and the 3,200-acre Wood River Wetlands in Klamath County. Both wetlands are an important stop for migratory birds within the Pacific Flyway, and host millions of water birds each year. The BLM manages eight public-access recreation sites around the district where visitors can participate in activities such as bird watching, camping, river-rafting, fishing and hunting, mountain biking, hiking, hang-gliding, and canoeing.

Land Management Case Study: Lakeview District

Many projects and treatments are ongoing in the Lakes Basin BLM Districts. Before any action is taken or decision is made, however, the BLM must consider the project's impact on the quality of the human environment. This requirement is enforced through the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The BLM, and all other federal agencies, must complete two NEPA documents: an Environmental Impact Statement and an Environmental Assessment. These documents provide the public an opportunity to be involved with the land management planning process. Certain actions that are deemed to have insignificant effects on the environment under NEPA qualify for a "Categorical Exclusion" status. Until recently, these actions were not subject to public review, but now require an opportunity for public commentary.

The Lakeview BLM District is broken into several management sections called Resource Areas. Each Resource Area in the Lakeview District is managed through a written plan. Lands within the Klamath Falls Resource Area are overseen through the Klamath Falls Resource Record of Decision and Resource Management Plan, completed in 1995. In northern Klamath County where the BLM acquired 3,000 acres of wetlands in need of restoration, a separate plan exists, completed in 1996. The Lakeview Resource Area is managed through the Lakeview Resource Management Plan, completed in 2004. These three plans are available to the public on the BLM website listed below.

Another type of planning framework that is implemented within the Lakeview District is called an Activity Plan. These plans provide specific direction for the implementation of the more general Resource Management Plan in discreet management units, such as livestock grazing allotments, Wild Horse Herd Management Areas, and wildlife management areas. The Klamath Falls Resource Area is home to a herd of wild horses, and therefore requires a specialized plan, entitled the Pokegama Wild Horse Herd Management Area Plan. This plan is meant to effectively manage the population of horses in accordance with federal regulations. The BLM is responsible for counting the number of horses present within the management area each year, maintaining an Appropriate Management Level of 30-50 horses, and removing horses that exceed that number. Captured horses are taken to a holding facility in Burns, OR, where they are available for public adoption. For more information on Oregon's wild horses, read A Horse of a Different Color: Managing Oregon's Unique Mustangs.

The BLM is also responsible for periodic inventories of resource conditions on the lands that it manages. The information gained from these projects is used to determine where future management actions are needed. Twenty such inventories exist for the Lakeview Resource Area, and two for the Klamath Falls Resource Area. These inventories are available for viewing on the BLM website below.

Lakeview District managers also oversee three resource programs. The Wildland Fire Management Program concerns prescribed burns, a preventative measure, within the district. During the fire season between May and September, the Lakeview District averages 68 wildfires that consume approximately 21,669 acres per year. About 10% of these fires are human-caused. In response, approximately 20,000 acres will be treated to prevent fires in 2010. Actions will include vegetation modification, hazard reduction, and slash disposal.

Another program ongoing in the Lakeview District is the Minerals Program. The Lakes Basin is a mineral-rich area that contains several commercial mines. The BLM's Mineral Program focuses on mining claims and the disposal of mineral materials. Active mining operations include perlite and diatomite mining, and the production of sand, gravel, rock, cinders, and decorative stone. The BLM also oversees the mining of the largest deposit of the Oregon's state gemstone, the Oregon Sunstone, a semiprecious feldspar. In addition to overseeing hard mineral extraction, the BLM has recognized the potential of four Known Geothermal Resource Areas within the district. These areas may be used in the future to produce geothermal energy, a source of clean, environmentally-friendly energy.

The BLM also oversees the Range Management Program. Within the Lakeview District there are 219 grazing allotments. The district annually authorizes 178,000 Animal Unit Months, or approximately 800 pounds of forage per animal, to private ranchers for grazing. A percentage of the fees collected from grazing go to the U.S. Treasury, but most is returned to the county range betterment fund and the Lakeview District to be used for range wildlife habitat improvement projects.

For more information about the BLM Districts in Oregon, visit these sites:

Authored by Caitlin Bell, Science Writer, Oregon Explorer