Culture Change Within BLM Slow and Uneven

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Monday, March 18, 2024
Chandra Rosenthal (303) 898-0798

Culture Change Within BLM Slow and Uneven

New Bureau of Land Management All-Employee Survey Yields Mixed Results


Washington, DC — The latest all-employee survey within the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) produced surprising results that vary widely from state to state and program to program within the agency, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Ironically, one point of general agreement is that BLM was unlikely to use the survey results to make it a “better place to work.”

These results are part of the 2023 government-wide Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS), which is administered annually by the Office of Personnel Management. The uniform 91-question survey enables comparisons between federal agencies and among different branches of the same agency, as well as the ability to track morale trends over time.

BLM had not made its agency-wide results available to employees but instead only distributed the results for each office to that office. Looking at the full results, however, produced some notable contrasts, including –

  • Respect for top agency leadership ranged from 65% in the California office down to 44% in next door’s Nevada Office. Barely more than half (54%) of BLM employees agree that “My organization’s senior leaders maintain high standards of honesty and integrity.” This number falls to just 37% in Wyoming, compared to 62% government-wide;
  • D.C. Headquarters employees were nearly twice as likely as field offices to report they could not disclose a “violation of any law, rule, or regulation without fear of reprisal’ and that “arbitrary action, personal favoritism, and/or political coercion” are tolerated;
  • One major outlier was BLM’s National Fire Center, which responded significantly more positively to nearly every question. For example, 93% of Fire Center employees say they “are protected from health and safety hazards on the job” (compared to 72% of Nevada Office employees), although their job is inherently far more dangerous; and
  • 43% of Headquarters staff report teleworking every workday, compared to 2% of Wyoming staff.

“Although Director Tracy Stone-Manning has attempted to institute a culture change within BLM, there is still a long way to go,” remarked Rocky Mountain PEER Director Chandra Rosenthal. “Keeping this survey information confined to each unit adds to the perception that BLM is balkanized and lacks an agency-wide sense of itself.”

At the same time, BLM is historically one of the most understaffed land management agencies. For example, in 2022, BLM had only 4.18 employees for every 100,000 acres of land to manage, while National Parks had a whopping 24.57 employees for every 100,000 acres of land. Yet, BLM lands are managed for far more complex multiple uses, including grazing, mining, oil and gas drilling, and off-road vehicle use, than are most Park Service lands. At the same time, BLM is getting thinner, with only 10,242 employees in 2022 compared to 10,356 in 2015.

“Notwithstanding the lack of funding, substantial majorities of responding BLM employees describe it as ‘a good place to work,’” added Rosenthal. “Despite much lower staffing, BLM appears to have much higher morale than the National Park Service.”


Look at BLM-wide responses to selected questions

See the entire 2023 BLM FEVS survey results

Compare the poor National Park Service morale

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