BLM and Quiet Recreation


The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) takes care of what some consider to be the  land of the western U.S. that no one wanted.  The land isn’t usually of National Park caliber and typically doesn’t have enough forest to be managed as a National Forest.  Still, the BLM manages almost 250 million acres of pubic lands.

The BLM Mission

Canyon of the Ancients National Monument

Canyon of the Ancients National Monument

Much like the other land management agencies the BLM has a mission: “The BLM’s mission is to manage and conserve the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations under our mandate of multiple-use and sustained yield.”  To the BLM, that mission encompasses energy (like oil and gas leasing), grazing (as in leasing land to ranchers for grazing at values assigned by Congress), wild horses and burros (trying to sustain populations at levels that don’t damage other resources),  fire (both firefighting and using fire in the management of other resources), and recreation.

Lands Managed by the BLM Belong to All U.S. Citizens

Ironwood Forest National Monument

Ironwood Forest National Monument

As public lands, you can explore wherever you want on most of those 250 million acres, although your choice of conveyance may be limited.  The most promoted of those lands are National Monuments (25 of them), National Conservation Areas (16), Wilderness Areas (223 covering 8.7 million acres), Wilderness Study Areas (517 covering 12.6 million acres), Wild and Scenic Rivers (69 with 2400 river miles and over 1 million acres), National Scenic and Historic Trails (13 for 5078 miles), and California Desert Conservation Area (10 million acres). While much BLM land is available for motorized recreation, in most of these special areas,  motorized vehicles are prohibited and the preferred method of transportation is your feet.

The Value of “Quiet Recreation”

Once you leave your motor vehicle behind, you are into “quiet recreation.” The Pew Charitable Trusts recently released a study that it had commissioned.  The study looks into the economic impact of this type of recreation on BLM lands.  The study pulled together a lot of data from 2014 and then did some detailed calculations to come up with the economics of the situation.  In a nutshell, ECONorthwest, the firm that did the analysis, says:


“We calculate that in 2014 quiet recreation activities accounted for approximately 36 million visitor days (58 percent of all visitor days) and 38.5 million visits (63 percent of all recreation visits) to BLM lands in the western U.S. and Alaska.

“We calculate that quiet recreation visitors to these BLM lands spent approximately $1.8 billion within 50 miles of the recreation sites in 2014. These expenditures resulted in overall contributions to the U.S. economy of approximately $800 million in personal income, $1.54 billion in value-added, economic output of over $2.8 billion, and nearly 25,000 jobs.

“The results represent only the spending-related economic effects of quiet recreation trips. The estimates in this study include trip spending that occurred within 50 miles of the BLM recreation sites. They do not include, for example, spending on gear or equipment that occurred prior to the trip or outside of 50 miles of the BLM sites. They also do not capture the economic value to recreational visitors or others who benefit from the range of goods and services that may be associated with or supported by quiet recreation opportunities on BLM-managed lands.”

The Bottom Line

The key take-aways here are that quiet recreation on BLM lands is a significant contributor to the U.S. economy and that a lot of people have discovered the unique recreational opportunities on these lands.  If you want to get away from the crowds at the National Parks and explore some wide open spaces of the American West,  you can meet your needs on BLM lands.


Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness Video

(Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness Video)

BLM Lands in the Western U.S. and Alaska

BLM Lands


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