Parks and Public Lands Career Field Structure
Caring for our public lands is a big responsibility, especially when you consider that they presently comprise more than one-third of the United States. The term public lands generally refers to land owned by the federal government; it is also known as the public domain. (Land owned by a municipality, county, or state governments is sometimes referred to as public land.)
Title to the public lands is held by various departments and agencies of the federal government. About 70 percent of the lands are managed by the Department of the Interior, whose BLM is by far the largest holding agency. Other Interior holding agencies are the National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Reclamation, Geological Survey, and Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Second in acreage is the Department of Agriculture, whose Forest Service administers over 26 percent of federally owned land. The departments of Defense and Commerce, the Tennessee Valley Authority, and other power agencies also hold public lands.
A primary principle of public land administration is to let the land be used for several purposes at the same time, such as grazing and mineral exploration, or conservation and recreation. Another guiding principle is to control the use of timber and other renewable resources, so that the supply remains constant.
There are hundreds of different jobs in federal parks and other public lands. The BLM alone lists over 120 separate job titles, including safety and occupational health manager, public health program specialist, public affairs officer, archives specialist, financial analyst, land law examiner, park ranger, criminal investigator, game law enforcement officer, historian, archaeologist, and museum curator, to name a few.
With an annual budget of more than $1.8 billion, the BLM employs about 10,000 permanent and seasonal or temporary workers. It manages 262 million acres of land and about 300 million additional acres of subsurface mineral resources. Most of this land is located in the western United States. The BLM is headquartered in Washington, D.C., in the historic Department of the Interior Building. There are 12 state offices and nearly 200 field offices in addition to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho; the National Science and Technology Center, National Business System Center, and National Information Resources Management Center in Denver, Colorado; and the National Training Center in Phoenix, Arizona. The mission of the BLM is to sustain “the health, diversity, and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.”
Some employees work in the cultural resources area of the BLM. The bureau manages cultural resources identified in conjunction with proposed land transfers or disposals. For example, in 1997 the BLM funded archaeological studies of two prehistoric sites at the Jupiter Inlet Archaeological Site in Florida and at the Cave Creek Rock Shelter in Illinois.
There are jobs in fire fighting at the BLM and other public agencies. In May 1997, prior to the wildfires that blackened large areas of Florida, the BLM’s first prescribed burn was successfully completed at the Jupiter Inlet Natural Area. This burn was accomplished cooperatively with Palm Beach County and the Florida Division of Forestry to restore habitat values for the threatened Florida scrub jay and a host of fire-dependent plant species.
The National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) is a good example of partnership among government agencies. The NIFC, located in Boise, Idaho, plays a key role in protecting public lands. The NIFC involves the BLM, National Park Service, Forest Service, Fire Administration, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, National Association of State Foresters, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, National Weather Service, and Aviation Management Directorate. These agencies have pooled resources and personnel to protect the land and to respond to emergencies.