Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Great Plains Research Vol. 20 No. 2, 2010


Copyright © 2010 by the Center for Great Plains Studies. University of Nebraska-Lincoln


James Skillen provides a comprehensive assessment of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), its origins, evolution, and ongoing efforts to manage the public lands for an increasing array of resources. His account documents the legal and political matrix in which the agency operates, recording the roles of key actors and processes that have influenced public lands administration, including members of Congress and presidential administrations, interest group politics, and efforts to bring expertise to the task of managing the public lands. Skillen organizes the results of his investigation into a chronology characterizing the BLM’s mandates and operations through two themes: “questions about the purposes and goals of public lands administration and questions about the decision-making processes that govern the public lands.” In tracking the conflicting responses to these questions throughout the history of public lands administration, Skillen concludes that ambiguity in this context is a given. Even so, he offers patterns and lessons.