♦ #publiclands

Public Lands 101: An Introduction. Through the Lens of a Gravel Rider

by | Public Lands

 I think it is safe to say having access to dirt roads is the foundation of gravel cycling. I wanted to learn some basics about who controls and manages the public lands and public roads I ride on. This post is a general introduction about United States public lands.

My motivation for this topic comes from the love of riding my bicycle on dirt roads.  A lot of the riding I do is on forest service roads and state & county roads.

Public lands are defined as land or natural resources owned and managed by the government for the benefit of the public. These lands are held in trust for the people of the United States and are used for a variety of purposes, including recreation, conservation, and resource extraction. Public lands are managed by a number of government agencies, including the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The history of public lands in the United States dates back to the early 19th century when the federal government started to acquire large amounts of land from foreign countries, Native American tribes, and private landowners.

United States Federally Owned Land ↓

US-Federal Agencies Map
One of the primary purposes of public lands is to provide outdoor recreational opportunities for the public. And being a gravel cyclist I would definitely fall under this category. Public lands include national parks, national monuments, national forests, wildlife refuges, and other areas that are open to the public for recreational use.

Public lands also play a key role in conserving natural resources and protecting wildlife habitats. The government manages public lands to ensure that they remain healthy and productive for future generations. This includes protecting watersheds, preserving forests, and managing wildlife populations.

In addition to recreation and conservation, public lands are also used for resource extraction. The government leases public lands to private companies for mining, logging, and oil and gas exploration. These activities can generate revenue for the government, but they can also have negative impacts on the environment.

One of the most significant challenges facing public lands today is balancing the competing interests of recreation, conservation, and resource extraction. The government must manage public lands in a way that allows for the sustainable use of natural resources while also preserving them for future generations. This requires detailed planning and management, as well as the involvement of stakeholders from various sectors, including industry, conservation groups, and the general public.

Living in northwest Colorado, I am grateful for what seems like endless dirt roads to explore on BLM land. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is an agency responsible for managing public lands. The BLM is responsible for managing over 245 million acres of public lands, primarily in the western United States. The agency’s mission is to manage public lands for multiple uses, including recreation, conservation, and resource extraction. The BLM is responsible for managing a wide range of lands, including national monuments, wilderness areas, and grazing lands.

US-Department-of-Agriculture-Sign

The U.S. Forest Service is responsible for managing over 193 million acres of public lands. The agency’s primary mission is to manage forests for multiple uses, including recreation, conservation, and resource extraction. The U.S. Forest Service oversees national forests, grasslands, and other areas, including wilderness areas, which are managed for their natural and scenic qualities.

National Park Service Patches
Badlands National Park Sign

The National Park Service is responsible for managing public lands. The agency was established in 1916 and is responsible for managing over 84 million acres of public lands. The National Park Service oversees 63 national parks, as well as national monuments, historic sites, and other areas of significance. The agency’s primary mission is to preserve and protect these areas for the enjoyment of future generations.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is responsible for managing public lands for the conservation of fish, wildlife, and plants. The agency manages over 150 million acres of public lands, including national wildlife refuges, wetlands, and other areas that are critical for the conservation of wildlife.

Bureau of Land Management Logo
Bureau of Land Management Logo
Bureau of Land Management Logo
Bureau of Land Management Logo

Public lands provide numerous benefits to society, including recreation, conservation, and resource extraction. However, managing public lands is a complex and challenging task that requires careful planning and management. The government must balance the competing interests of various stakeholders while also preserving these lands for future generations.

This is just the starting point for this post as I will update it as I learn more about public lands moving forward. I also want to do a future post on what roles state and local government agencies play and a post on riding responsibly while using these public spaces. 

More to come… 

Thanks!
JR Thompson

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