At more than 245 million surface acres, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) manages more land than any other federal agency.
To guide the management of those 245 million acres, BLM solicits the advice of citizen-based advisory groups called Resource Advisory Councils, or RACs. These councils, composed of 10 to 15 citizens chosen for their expertise in natural resource issues, operate as official forums for local citizens to provide recommendations on how BLM lands are managed.
Serving on a RAC is an opportunity like no other when it comes to engaging a federal agency on land management planning. The councils were created in 1995 under the authority of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, and BLM is the only federal land management agency that solicits citizen input in this fashion.
In that regard, it is critically important that hunters and shooters make their voices heard by serving on their local RACs, as it is through these councils that land use and land access decisions are made.
“Serving on a RAC is an excellent opportunity for sportsmen and women to get involved in land use decisions that can affect the present and future of hunting, recreational shooting, and wildlife management on western public lands,” said Susan Recce, NRA Director of Conservation, Wildlife and Natural Resources.
There are 29 RACs across the West (which is where most BLM-managed land is located), and each RAC represents a different region. A person is qualified to serve on a RAC through education, training, knowledge or experience, and diverse backgrounds are sought. Members include conservationists, ranchers, outdoor recreationists (including hunters and shooters), state and local government officials, tribal officials, and academics.
The diverse membership of each RAC helps ensure that BLM land managers get the varying perspectives they need to achieve their mission, which is to manage the public lands for multiple uses.
“Each of the RACs lend their unique combination of geographic and resource expertise to inform the BLM’s decisions,” said Acting BLM Director Mike Pool. “The members of our RACs help our field offices by acting as sounding boards in all types of resource management issues. They are a tremendous resource for field managers across the West.”
The job of each council is to provide formal recommendations on issues pertaining to land and resource management on BLM lands within its jurisdiction—issues like land use planning, off-highway vehicle use, oil and gas exploration, cattle grazing, and recreational activities.
Of importance to sportsmen and women is continued access and opportunities for hunting and recreational shooting, as well as impacts that Travel Management Plans can have on these activities. Decisions on the future of hunting and recreational shooting can be shaped by these councils.
Recommendations made by the councils are more formal than other avenues of citizen-based involvement in public land management decisions, such as public comment periods. In fact, BLM states that RACs “assure participants that their advice will be formally acknowledged in a structured, transparent and inclusive public process.”
To that end, all RAC recommendations are given to a designated federal official (DFO), who is usually a BLM state director, district manager or field office manager. The DFO reviews the RAC’s recommendations and then forwards them to the BLM’s Washington office. The recommendations do carry weight in management decisions, and RACs even have recourse if they believe their recommendations are being arbitrarily discarded.
Membership in a RAC is achieved through a nomination process. Individuals may nominate themselves or others to serve on an advisory council. Nominees must be residents of the state or states where the RAC has jurisdiction and are judged on the basis of their training, education, and knowledge of the council’s geographical area. All nominations must be accompanied by letters of reference from any represented interests or organizations; a completed RAC application; and any other information that speaks to the nominee’s qualifications.
Final appointments are made by the Secretary of the Interior. Appointments are for three years with the possibility of renewal. Approximately one-third of RAC members are subject to appointment or reappointment each year.
The 2013 call for nominations was published in the Federal Register on Jan. 28, opening a 45-day nomination period that ends on March 14. The NRA is encouraging hunters and shooters to apply for RAC vacancies in their area to ensure the sporting community has a voice on these councils.
Each of the 29 RACs have open positions in the following categories (all of which are open to sportsmen and women):
Category One – Public land ranchers and representatives of organizations associated with energy and mineral development, the timber industry, transportation or rights-of-way, off-highway vehicle use, and commercial recreation.
Category Two – Representatives of nationally or regionally recognized environmental organizations, archaeological and historical organizations, dispersed recreation activities, and wild horse and burro organizations.
Category Three – Representatives of state, county, or local elected office; representatives and employees of a state agency responsible for the management of natural resources; representatives of Indian Tribes within or adjacent to the area for which the RAC is organized; representatives and employees of academic institutions who are involved in natural sciences; and the public-at-large.
For more information on specific vacancies in your area, please contact your local BLM office. The Federal Register notice has a listing of all BLM field offices and contacts for the RACs. Additional information about the nomination process and links to BLM state RAC web pages is available at www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/info/resource_advisory.html.