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Working for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Archeologists (Part 1)

Explore careers and discover job opportunities with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Have you ever wondered what agency handles the Wild Horse and Burro Program, grazing, and leases on government land?  In part 1 of this 3 part series you will learn about this agency’s mission, its history, several of their unique programs, and the career path of the archeologist (GS-0193).


The BLM is part of the Department of the Interior and was established in 1946, by President Harry S. Truman.  The agency was created by the combination of 2 agencies, the General Land Office and the Grazing Service.  The BLM administers over 247.3 million acres of public lands, which is one-eighth of the landmass in the United States.  Additionally, the BLM manages the federal government’s 700 million acres of subsurface mineral estate that is located beneath federal, state and privately owned land located in 12 westerns states (Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming).


Historic Homestead Restoration, Near Lewistown, MT
Historic Homestead Restoration, Near Lewistown, MT


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”.

The agency handles approximately 18,000 land permits and leases for livestock grazing on 155 million acres of BLM public lands.  Additionally, there are 221 wilderness acres, 20 national monuments and over 636 other protected areas as part of the, National Landscape Conservation System which totals almost 30 million acres. The agency has more than 63,000 oil and gas wells on BLM public lands; with total energy leases that as of 2013 generated approximately $5.4 billion dollars and this divided among the Treasury, states, and Native American groups.

BLM Programs

The BLM handles many programs and I will discuss two, the Wild Horses and Burros, and Grazing programs. More information is available for the BLM’s many other programs and initiatives.

Wild Horse and Burro Program

The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 directs the BLM to both manage and protect wild horses and burros on public lands.  Horses and burros have no natural predators and they have a reproduction rate of more than 20 %.  There is the Wild Horse and Burro Adoption Program helps to reduce the over population of these animals.  The program is administration in a 31 state jurisdiction and there are 25 adoption events to help find homes for approximately 1000 animals each year.

BLM also collaborates with the Mustang Heritage Foundation that offers trained horses to the public, at several different Mustang Makeover locations.  The Mustang Makeovers pair wild horses with trainers who have the horses up to 100 days and than there is an oral bid to find an adopter. For more information about this program see the following links:

Grazing Program

BLM administrators approximately 245 million acres of public lands, manages livestock grazing on 155 million acres as prescribed by federal law.  The relevant stipulations of the law for use and season of use are set for the permits and leases that are issued by the BLM to ranchers.  BLM has cognizance over 18,000 permits and leases issued to ranchers for grazing of the livestock (mostly cattle and sheep).  These permits and leases cover a 10-year period and are renewable only if the BLM determines that the terms and conditions are being followed.  Visit the BLM’s Grazing Program web site for additional information.

BLM Career Paths

The BLM offers many exciting job opportunities. The archeologist is featured in this article with other occupations covered in Part 2 and 3 of this series.

Archeologist (GS-0193)

Jenny Blanchard is a GS-0193-11 archaeologist working with BLM’s Anchorage Field Office in Anchorage, AL, “In college, I loved anthropology and archaeology classes.  As an undergraduate, you take field school, so I took 2 archaeological field school classes in Alaska.  I spent my study abroad in a semester doing Mayan archaeology in Belize.  There is so much to learn about past cultures, that I knew archaeology would never be boring”.

Blanchard points out that the most exciting part of her job is going to remote parts of Alaska, “I spend a lot of time in a helicopter in the summer, because there are literally no roads in the 17 million acres of BLM that she is responsible for.” Blanchard reveals that she has met great people, worked on interesting archaeological sites, and has seen a lot of natural resources along the way. “I’ve seen some of the rarest birds in North America, worked next to a fur seal rookery in the Pribilof Islands, and had muskox roaming over my project sites on two projects in Alaska.”

As a federal archaeologist Blanchard has the responsibility for managing the cultural resources on public lands including the cultural heritage, history, and prehistory that belongs to all Americans. Blanchard recommends that those who are interested in entering this field should get a good background in science. She suggests that archaeologists use chemistry, biology (zoology, botany, etc.), ecology, and geology regularly, so the more you know about those, the more you can dive into the field.

The archeologist is a very interesting career path. You must be a U.S. citizen to apply and the salary range for GS-09 level is from $48,403.00 to $62,920.00.

Archeologist Duties


Pueblo Ruin in Utah
Pueblo Ruin in Utah


Some of the duties include documenting and management of artifacts, collections and other relevant records.  Design and implement inventory strategies, resource planning, write and prepare cultural resources input for various environmental documents that include environmental assessments and planning documents.

For a GS-09 grade level, you must have met 1 year of specialized experience at the GS-07 level. There are education requirement that are quite specialized for this career path.  You will need a Master’s degree and some of the education requirements include 3 semester hours in history of archeology, archeology in a major geographical area such as North America or Africa, regional archeology, archeological cultures, theory and methods of archeology and archeological field school.  You will also need 6 semester hours of in related course work in geography, geology, history, historiography, environmental studies, scientific writing, and surveying.

This type of work has certain physical demands.  You will perform fieldwork, and will walk or ride vehicles or horses over rough terrain.  The duties require recurring bending, reaching, or lifting.  There will moderately heavy lifting of equipment and samples.  There maybe exposure to extremes in weather, temperatures and exposure to hostile wildlife, as well as, chemical and physical hazards.

Some of the duties include:

Knowledge of concepts, theories, and methods of history, archaeology, and cultural resource management.

  • Knowledge of the requirements of federal and state laws relevant to cultural resources.
  • Have the ability to independently design, implement, and document large-scale archaeological research projects.
  • Perform the operation of geographic information systems for data management and analysis.

There is the potential for promotion up to the GS-15 grade and those who wish to progress in the field would benefit from developing a comprehensive Career Development Plan (IDP).

Three archeologists are featured in this article to provide insight from those currently working and making a difference in this field. Their perspective and suggestions will assist anyone who wishes to learn more about archeology career opportunities.

Zane Fulbright is a GS-0193-11 archeologist who works at the Lewistown Field Office/Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument in Lewistown, MT.

Fulbright states, “The career field chose me. I went in to the local Forest Service ranger station looking for a firefighter position. They told me they had no openings except as an archaeology aid. I was working on my degree in history with a minor in anthropology so I was able to be hired. That was 25 years ago!”

Fulbright finds the recovery of artifacts in the field the most rewarding. Additionally, “federal archaeology has a good balance of archaeology and history. Learn how to research and write. Go hiking! Be comfortable outside by yourself.” He suggests taking advantage of professional conferences; present papers and interact with others in the field. Get to know different regions in the US and the unique nature of archaeology associated with the different cultures and environments.


College Class Field Trip, near Lewistown, MT
College Class Field Trip, near Lewistown, MT


Bryon Loolse, is a GS-301-15, division chief at the BLM Office in Washington, D.C. Loose in the early part of his career worked in the field, often outdoors. Loolse states, “The most satisfying and invigorating is the multi-disciplinary nature of archaeology. We need to know many things and are constantly learning new things”.

Loolse recalls an article he wrote about large scars found on ponderosa pine trees and argued the Ute created the scars years before to collect the tree sap and inner bark (cambium). A journal editor asked him to explain more about the fire ecology and natural history of the trees because the readers of the journal wouldn’t know those things. “I found that easy because I had already discussed the scars extensively with my forest ecologist, our foresters, and biologists. They explained ponderosa pine forests were evolved to be fire tolerant with thick bark.” Studies further showed that our forest had previously burned with low intensity fires every 20 to 30 years. You could differentiate between the natural scars called “cat faces” resulting from natural fires and those caused by wildlife like porcupine and elk. Loolse states that, “these were very different from the human caused scars I was investigating”.

Loolse suggests that archeology can be a challenging and difficult field to get a foothold as a permanent employee. “You need to be persistent and determined to make it a career.  You will need a master’s degree, and it is very important for documenting and preserving our past”.

In part 2 of this series we will discuss the career path associated with the Petroleum Engineer (GS-0881).


  • Samantha Storms, Public Relations Officer, National Office of New Media, BLM Washington D.C.
  • The Bureau of Land Management’s public relations department supplied the photographs used in this article.
  • The BLM web site at http://www.blm.gov.

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About The Author

A Pennsylvania native, Betty Boyd moved to the Tennessee Valley in 1994. She retired in early 2012 after 30 years of Government service. Boyd was an Acquisition Manager/IT Manager/ Project Manager during her 30-year career. Boyd also served as a supervisor and team leader during her career. In 2012 Boyd founded a consulting firm, Boyd Consulting Services, which offers writing services to clients and companies. For more information about these writing services see the following website: http://www.BettyBoydWriting.com/. Betty attended Athens State University, Athens, AL and received a B.B.A. in Management of Technology in 2000. She received her Masters of Science degree from Syracuse University with a concentration in Information Management in 2007. Boyd is a certified Level III contracting professional and she received a Masters level certificate in Project Management from the National Defense University in 2008.