New Colorado BLM director has many conservation opportunities

Vermillion Basin - one of the many wild places on BLM lands in Colorado

Being tasked with managing the millions of acres of our shared Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands in Colorado is no easy job. Finding the right balance in managing those lands requires careful planning as well as strong leadership from the state office down. The Colorado BLM is in a position to be a model for the West with a new leader at the helm - Rocky Mountain native Ruth Welch.

The new Colorado state director steps into a role that is filled with opportunities for the state to show how the BLM can and should be doing business.  BLM lands host many uses and values, including the billion dollar outdoor recreation industry, energy resources, lands with wilderness characteristics worthy of protection and wildlife habitat that draws people from near and far. Striking a balance between conservation and energy development is one of the ways Colorado can be a leader; and this should be a top priority for the new director.

Millions of acres of wilderness quality lands have been identified by the agency in recent years. These same lands also support important wildlife, including the greater sage-grouse, mule deer and elk. When plans are being made to lease BLM lands, we need to see the agency take a look at conservation and recreation opportunities at the same time. With the right approach from our new director we can continue moving forward with broadly supported Master Leasing Plans as well as efforts to develop strategies for helping the grouse thrive once again.

Modernizing the way the BLM manages our lands has been a priority for this administration and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has been very clear that she wants to ensure places that are “too special to drill” are protected for the long term. A number of special places have been identified in Colorado that fit this description and The Wilderness Society is confident that Director Welch will help guide the processes underway to meet the Secretary’s goals.

“There has never been a better time to shape a culture for management of the region as a whole,” said Nada Culver, senior director of Agency Policy. “We welcome Director Welch’s perspective to the ongoing work of the BLM and are hopeful that Colorado will be a leader in successfully managing our shared public lands.”