In this day of mail-order shopping, nearly everyone gets a stunning array of spiffy catalogues, from L. L. Bean to the Sharper Image. And now California residents are receiving a unique catalogue from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, a division of the Department of the Interior and the trustee of more than 340 million acres of land throughout the West. The BLM California Gift Catalogue invites prospective BLM "partners" to, in effect, buy a piece of their own rock.
It is one thing for private volunteer groups, like that formed independently by friends of Yosemite National Park, to solicit donations for special research and protection projects not normally found in the park's budget. It is something else for a federal agency to go begging for money to buy items that are supposed to be a routine part of BLM business.
In the catalogue, willing BLM partners are solicited to build an information kiosk for $2,000; clear brush for $4,850; plant trees, $1,430; get a campground toilet, $3,500 each; pave a parking area, $6,000, or buy a road grader, $170,000. A letter from a Sacramento public-relations firm promoting the BLM program in behalf of El Paso Natural Gas Co. adds: "Donations can range from volunteer time to clean up campgrounds, or $120 for a ton of baled hay to feed wild burros, or even $126,000 for an interpretive center at Soda Springs. Something for every budget."