Oregon BLM (Bureau of Public Land Management) Prineville District

Oregon BLM (Bureau of Public Land Management) Prineville District

BLM (Bureau of Land Management) Prineville District

To be honest, I didn’t even know what BLM meant until I moved to Prineville 6 years ago. I soon discovered, however, that there was a wonderful federal government office right here under our noses.

Prineville is the county seat for Crook County and although Prineville and Central Oregon proper are very low in population when compared to most metropolitan cities in the United States, there is a lot to manage here in Central Oregon in terms of public lands.

The Prineville District office of the Bureau of Land Management is one of 10 BLM districts in Oregon and Washington, the other nine being Spokane, Vale, Burns, Lakeview, Medford, Coos Bay, Roseburg, Eugene and Salem.

Each district of the Bureau of Land Management serves an overall common purpose which is the preservation and protection of our public lands as well as the history and culture associated with these lands.

Within each individual district, there are many projects in place for that area of the country in terms of land management and protection.

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Photo by Audrey Kirchner

Burea of Land Management Prineville District

BLM Prineville District Office: 541.416.6700
3050 NE Third Street, Prineville, OR 97754

Hours: 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday (closed on holidays)

District Manager: Debbie Henderson-Norton

Associate District Manager: Steve Robertson

Public Affairs: Virginia Gibbons

Deschutes Resource Area Manager: Molly Brown

Central Oregon Resource Area Manager: Christina Welch

Administrative Officer: Rachel Carver

Maupin Visitor Center: 541.395.2778
7 North Highway 197, Maupin OR 97037

Hours: 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Thursday through Sunday (May through September)

Prineville BLM –
Prineville, OR, USA
[get directions]

Office hours 7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday excluding holidays

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Burea of Land Management (BLM) Overview

What exactly does the BLM do and what is the purpose of this government agency?

In general terms, the Bureau of Land Management is a branch of the Office of the Department of the Interior. The purpose of the BLM part of our government agencies is to protect our public lands. However, this task is not as simple as it sounds and learning more about BLM has shown me the many ways this managerial agency impacts us directly.

As part of the Washington and Oregon division of the Bureau of Land Management, the Prineville District is part of the greater arm of the BLM which in turn protects lands such as forests, rangelands, beaches and mountains that cover 15 million acres in Oregon and over 400,000 acres in Washington.

These public lands encompass more than 800 miles where we can find wild and scenic rivers and where people can enjoy hunting, hiking, fishing, and camping. We can also enjoy rock hounding throughout these pristine lands and searching for fossils and artifacts of civilizations millions of years back.

However, the BLM does not just cover recreational lands. The BLM is actually an extremely vital part of our nation’s conservation program while at the same time becoming a leader in our goal to become green in terms of figuring out how to preserve our environment while working on alternative energy sources.

The Bureau of Land Management is also playing a vital role in many other aspects of our national economy and operates with the mission of preserving what we have in this great land in terms of natural beauty and resources, protecting wildlife and most especially endangered species, discovering and heightening the potential of our natural resources, and creating new jobs centered around implementing some of these new technologies.

There are Bureau of Land Management offices throughout the United States and I encourage you to learn more about them as each one of these has a specific purpose and each BLM in the United States is part of a plan designed to preserve and protect one part of the country. The Eastern States division of the BLM encompasses an incredible number of states while others have such vast open land that they cover one state or maybe several such as Washington and Oregon. Then within the national offices there are the district offices such as the Prineville District. There are more than 245 million acres of public lands in the United States, so this puts into perspective the level of management needed.

It is estimated that 57 million people in 2008 visited recreation sites alone on BLM managed lands – and the numbers are growing.

Let’s take a look at some of the parts of BLM management and then I’ll give you a brief tour of what the Prineville District does in terms of managing our lands here in Oregon.

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Wind harnessing project
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Wild horses
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Salmon run
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Mineral lands
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Public lands
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John Day
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Solar panels

What Does the BLM Do and Why?

The offices of the Bureau of Land Management oversee the following things:


BLM is constantly looking towards using public lands in the development of new and sustainable energy sources. Under the direction of President Obama and the Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, there are many programs in place to create jobs as part of the stimulus package in the fields of solar power and wind power. In fact, one of my friends who works at the Prineville District office of BLM just returned from Colorado where she went to a seminar on wind power.

Even though the BLM oversees on-shore drilling and other energy sources throughout the US such as coal and other fuels, and leases the land to companies to produce energy, this is a source of revenue for the US taxpayer and one way that our country is making money. However, the hope is that we can turn to other ecologically safer ways of producing that energy and solar and wind are the target projects for this administration.


The BLM is crucial in maintaining our public lands and keeping them as free of fire hazards as possible. When you see crews out cutting down trees or clearing underbrush, that is all the BLM at work. Part of the preservation of our national forests and conservation of our land is protecting it against the threat of wildfire and this involves making sure that the forests and lands are as protected from disastrous fire damage as possible. You can imagine how many millions of acres throughout the US this involves and how in Central Oregon alone the task must seem daunting in terms of keeping fire hazards to a minimum. In Central Oregon, the risks of fire are quiet high at all times of the year and the management of such vast countryside is an amazingly well done job here. Several years ago, we had a terrible problem with forest fires and it took months for them to be brought under control. The BLM also employees firefighters in their efforts to keep fire under control as the biggest threat here is lightning strikes.


Central Oregon is especially notable for its vast ranches and cattle. It is estimated that nationwide, 157 million acres of the public lands in the US are grazed by livestock, mostly cattle and sheep. The purpose of grazing on public lands is to control growth of rangelands as well as provide livestock with grazing land. History, however, taught us that there is a fine line between grazing and overkill and many of the lands and ecosystems were nearly destroyed by overgrazing and in 1946, unregulated grazing of public lands became a thing of the past. Now, there are studies ongoing to make sure that the lands are not overgrazed and that permits and leases are in place to prevent this from happening. While the purposes of grazing are evident for things such as maintaining rangelands to prevent fire spread, overgrazing can lead to destruction of the land and vegetation that the BLM is striving to protect. That’s why study and management of these lands goes hand in hand.


Considering the US has 258 million acres of lands and 700 million acres of mineral estate as they term underground lands, it is imperative that plans are in place for the management of these resources. Each branch of BLM throughout the country works in tandem with each other to develop plans that conserve our public lands and also use them to the best of their potential but as one can imagine, this is an ongoing task. The branches of BLM in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Eastern States, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming all work together on such projects as the wild horse and burro project for instance to try and come up with viable alternatives to overpopulation of these magnificent animals while providing protection for them so that they will always be a part of our nation’s heritage.


This is one of the biggest areas that BLM has to cover. In Central Oregon alone, the amount of recreation sites on public lands is incredible. While some of the lands are free of charge, some are not and permits must be issued and then regulations followed to assure that the public lands are not overused. For instance in Maupin, not far from Prineville, there is a stretch of river that is extremely popular for rafting from mid May to mid July. Only so many permits are issued per day to avoid overuse of the public waterways which is a great way to preserve and protect one of our national resources – public lands. Public land use for recreation is a privilege most Americans take for granted. There are so many beautiful places to visit and so many ways to enjoy public lands. Tourism in Central Oregon is a huge source of revenue and there are so many beautiful places to see from the Cascade Lakes to the Newberry Crater – but someone needs to ensure that these natural wonders stay intact and that is what the BLM does by monitoring the use of our public lands for recreation and ensuring that they are not overused or abused.

National Landscape Conservation System

This is a part of the BLM that was established to ensure that national monuments, wild and scenic rivers, wilderness areas and wilderness study areas, national scenic and historic trails and national conservation areas are protected. Throughout the United States, there are approximately 886 federally recognized areas covering approximately 27 million acres. It is not hard to imagine the scope of protecting these lands but it is a marvelous comfort to know that someone is looking out for the preservation and conservation of these natural wonders.

Wild Horse and Burro Program

It is estimated by BLM that there are more than 38,000 wild horses and burros that roam on lands managed by the BLM covering 10 western states. The problem arises in that the herds can double in 4 years. This is why this program is so vital and especially here in Central Oregon as the amount of open land is staggering. Each year, BLM gathers thousands of animals from the ranges in an attempt to control the population. There is new research ongoing regarding controlling fertility which will hopefully reduce herd sizes but in the meantime, there are adoption programs all over the country in place where you can adopt a wild/feral horse for $125 and a wild burro for $75. These horses and burros though wild can be gentled just like any other horse or burro and is an excellent solution to the problem of overpopulation. Here in Central Oregon, there are several herds that roam freely and are a beautiful thing to come upon. We saw a small herd running by the river near Warm Springs and I will never forget it. I only wish I’d had my camera out and been able to shoot photos.

BLM Projects at the Prineville District

Currently here at the Prineville District, the BLM office is involved in some of these great projects. There are also volunteer opportunities in many areas throughout Central Oregon but also nationwide. It’s a wonderful way to protect our public lands.

National Public Lands Day – September 25, 2010 – the project for this year is Biak National Guard Base cleanup. There will be weed removal, trail work, etc. – Contact is Ron Wortman 541.416.6700

BLM Academy of Sciences Study – The BLM Prineville District has requested help from the National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council (NAS/NRC) to look into the problem with the wild horses and burro population here in Central Oregon to try and come up with viable alternatives that are good for the preservation of these magnificent animals and also good for the public lands. They also opened this discussion up to the people and encourage communities involved to participate.

John Day River Environmental Assessment – An ongoing project to study and protect the John Day River as it is a huge tourism draw when it comes to recreation here in Central Oregon.  However, BLM recognizes the necessity of keeping it pristine and part of the wilderness that is Oregon. This is also a project aimed at protecting the John Day River and environs from abuse and misuse by industry.

Prevention of White-Nose Syndrome in Bats – This is a fungus that was first detected in New York and is turning up in more and more bats across the country. It is a deadly fungus that is destroying thousands of hibernating bats thus reducing the population dramatically.

Vegetation Control – The Prineville District BLM manages vegetation control such as noxious weeds that threaten to take over and wipe out native plants and trees if encroaching ‘bad’ vegetation is not controlled. This project examines the best ways that are environmentally sound in controlling unwanted vegetation while keeping healthy the indigenous growth that needs to be preserved.

Reduction of Dangerous Fuels – The LaPine area has 4 projects currently underway to reduce dangerous material in the forests thus reducing the possibility of uncontrolled wildfires.

Wild Hose and Burro Monitoring – As above, this project is ongoing and a huge concern in Central Oregon. The goal is to maintain the herds and keep them safe while not allowing their population to become overwhelming.

Migratory Bird Project – This project was ongoing in Redmond during a part of July and August when certain migratory birds were passing through.  An area in nearby Redmond was closed to public access while these birds were migrating in order to protect them and the habitat essential to their migratory pattern.

BLM (Bureau of Land Management) Prineville District

As you can see, for one little government office, there is a lot going on at the Bureau of Land Management Prineville District!  It is staggering when you think of all the projects that are ongoing as well as research for green energy sources while protecting our public lands.

One of the reasons I discovered the BLM office here in Prineville was because we mush our dogs on scooters and we wanted to make sure that we were using roads that were safe to use and were also legal to use for these purposes. 

By visiting the BLM office, we were given helpful maps and directions on what roads were best for our purposes and through their guidance, we learned how to best appreciate our public lands in this area as well as use them safely.  They provide a huge service in terms of protecting and utilizing our public lands and it is comforting to know that there are agencies that have their philosophies based on conservation rather than destruction.

The Bureau of Land Management is part of the First Lady’s Take It Outside Program as well (which is part of Let’s Move Outside and Let’s Move) – a program aimed at reducing childhood obesity in this country.  It is a marvelous program to encourage kids of all ages from 2 to 92 to get out and see all that this great country has to offer – to appreciate nature and all the benefits of hiking, camping, boating, etc. while learning how to exercise and live a healthier lifestyle. 

The BLM is also part of the Take Pride in America Program which is a program geared at getting volunteers to help clean up and preserve our national public lands and protect our parks, forests, grasslands, wildlife refuges, cultural and historical sites and recreation areas.  This is an ongoing philosophy and one that takes helping hands to keep in motion. 

VOLUNTEER PROJECTS  – Some of the many things you can volunteer for!

Fish and wildlife – help improve streams to increase fish production
Recreation – lead hikes or tours, provide info to public lands visitors, serve as a camp host, work on trails
Range management and forestry – plant trees after fires, assist in scientific research projects, thin trees
Energy and minerals – take part in geological surveys and fossil excavations
Archaeology and history – locate and map ancient petroglyphs, assist in their discovery, conduct research
Watersheds – assist BLM workers in soil and water conservation programs to reduce erosion and pollution
Administrative support – work on computers, drive vehicles, answer public inquires and supervise other volunteers
Public information – write, edit or take photos for publication, produce graphic arts work, displays or videos
Wild horses and burros – help with private adoptions and feeding; horses and burros that are gathered have to be tended and fed; show trained horses and burros as demonstrations
Engineering and surveying – aid engineers in planning, help build facilities, put up signs, work on roads and trailheads
Data management – work on the computerized system for storing information
Planning – help identify and plan for areas of environmental concern and develop new ideas for ongoing projects

In short, there’s a lot to be done at the Prineville District BLM and you can volunteer on many levels – or contact your own BLM and give some time.  It is worth the effort to protect and preserve our public lands!

Photo Credits

All photos courtesy of the BLM photo gallery (public domain photographs)

Horse Roundup Through BLM

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