Opinion: What New Mexico needs in a new national BLM Director

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It’s increasingly rare for people to work at the same place for three years, let alone 36 years. That’s how long I worked for the Bureau of Land Management, one of the most important and least publicly understood federal land management agencies, whose work is especially critical in New Mexico.

The mission of the BLM is to “sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for multiple use and the enjoyment of present and future generations.” It may sound simple, but it’s anything but. The BLM is responsible for managing 13 million acres of public land in New Mexico, land that belongs to all of us and land that we – the citizenry – have been entrusted with to ensure that our grandchildren can continue to access and experience.

 For New Mexicans, this part is especially important. Hunting, fishing, hiking, camping – these are more than pastimes, but real connections to our cultural heritage and history. Our public lands and, by extension, their management, are a key component of who we are as New Mexicans. At the same time, our oil and gas industry provides jobs and funding for education. Balancing these and the countless other priorities is the crux of BLM’s role in thoughtfully managing our public lands.

The position for the national BLM Director is currently open in Washington, D.C., an appointed role that will report to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. This individual will be responsible for a budget over $1 billion, more than 40,000 employees and volunteers, and the 71-year legacy of the agency.

As an agency that has experienced dramatic budget cuts the last decade, at the same time experiencing an increase in the complexity of stakeholder needs, the suitability of the next director’s ability to shepherd the agency forward is more important than ever. There are certain skills, personality traits, and world views that are critical to this person’s success and the success of the BLM that are worth sharing.

Above all else, the BLM Director needs to be able to work with multiple stakeholders and fulfill obligations relating to tribes, ranching, recreation, conservation, oil and gas extraction, mineral development, and logging, just to name a few. Ideally, this person would be someone who has worked for the BLM, not be an ideologue, and not already be in the pocket of any special interests.

Multiple-use management means hearing out each stakeholder, and proactively breaking down walls so all stakeholders not only feel heard, but are heard. The role of BLM is not that of stakeholder, but convener, developing and implementing the best management plans, all the while understanding that every type of land use cannot occur on every acre.

The BLM Director must recognize that New Mexico is unique in many ways. As the home to two of our nation’s newer national monuments, an active extractive industry, and 23 sovereign nations with deep ancestral ties to public lands, our state will prove a testing ground for how well our new BLM director is able to perform.

This person needs to be a bridge builder, staunch supporter of BLM and its mission, somebody who understands multiple use and conservation, and someone with the integrity to never compromise the sustainability of our public lands. New Mexicans, those here now and those that won’t be born for another 50 years, deserve this.

One possible candidate being floated for nomination is Karen Budd-Falen, a private property rights lawyer from Wyoming, who is known as the “Darling of the Sagebrush Rebellion,” and whose activities in New Mexico have been particularly divisive. Budd-Falen has none of the attributes that will be needed to be successful and she is uniquely unqualified to oversee the BLM. She has spent her career attacking U.S. public lands, filing frivolous lawsuits against the BLM, working to undermine BLM public servants, advocating seizure of public lands, and aligning herself with public lands extremists. We deserve better.

DesGeorges worked as a steward for public land resources with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for 36 years. His last 20 years he held several leadership positions, including 11 years as the Taos Field Manager. He is a native Taoseño, his family settling in the area in the mid-1700s.

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