This report provides an overview of how federal lands and resources are managed, the agencies that manage the lands, the authorities under which these lands are managed, and some of the issues associated with federal land management. The report is divided into nine sections.
The severe 2000 fire season prompted a significant rise in funding for wildfire protection that has been sustained; wildfire appropriations in FY2005 were more than $2.9 billion. Most of the funds ($2.8 billion in FY2005) are to protect federal lands, with funds for reducing fuel loads, for equipment and training, for fighting fires, and for restoring burned sites. Federal funding ($98 million in FY2005) also supports state efforts to protect nonfederal lands. Some wildfire funding ($74 million in FY2005) is used for fire research, fire facilities, and programs to improve forest health. Congress continues to debate wildfire funding levels, with a growing focus on the cost of wildfire suppression.
The U.S. Forest Service established the first protected "wilderness area" under its own discretion in 1924. In 1964, the Wilderness Act established the National Wilderness Preservation System, reserved to Congress the authority to designate wilderness areas, and directed the Secretaries of Agriculture and of the Interior to review certain lands for their wilderness potential. The Act also designated 54 wilderness areas with 9 million acres of Forest Service land. Congress began expanding the Wilderness System in 1968, and today, there are 631 wilderness areas, totalling nearly 104 million acres, in 44 States.