A new generation has ascended to top leadership posts at the Bureau of Land Management.
In the last
eight months, acting BLM Director Mike Dombeck has filled 17 key
positions, appointing three assistant directors, eight state
directors and six associate state directors. Six appointees are
women, two are minorities, and two have never before worked in the
Interior Department. Several of the appointees leapfrogged over
senior employees to reach their new posts.
staffers say the appointments - all but three of which have passed
final procedural hurdles - represent more than a change of faces.
They say the turnover signifies a change in bureau
"To paraphrase (Energy Secretary)
Hazel O'Leary, these new state directors are not your father's BLM.
It's not the Bureau of Livestock and Mining any more," says Johanna
Wald, senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense
Steve Richardson, BLM assistant director
for external affairs, says the new leaders were chosen to manage
ecosystems rather than make isolated decisions about activities
such as mining and grazing. Past directors, he says, often made
such decisions without an overall concern for the environment. The
recent round of appointments occurred as many long-entrenched state
directors took advantage of retirement packages offered by the
say the change is dramatic.
"It used to be you
had to be a head range person with the agency to get a stab at a
state director position," says Cathy Carlson, legislative
representative for the National Wildlife Federation. "You had to
have strong ties to the livestock industry."
especially pleasant surprise, Carlson says, is the appointment of
Maitland Sharpe as assistant director for resource assessment and
planning. Sharpe has been with the Izaak Walton League of America
for 22 years, serving as the group's executive director for the
last two years. Sharpe will be one of five assistant directors at
Three of the eight new state directors
are women; only one other woman has ever served as a state
director. In Idaho and Nevada, women will fill the top two
Carlson says the newly
appointed women are particularly grounded in conservation. New
Idaho State Director Martha Hahn, current associate state director
in Colorado, spent three years working for the Grand Canyon Trust
in between intervals at the BLM. New Nevada State Director Ann
Morgan came from the Washington State Department of Natural
Resources, where she managed its aquatic
"I was attracted to this particular
administration and agency because I think their agenda is the right
one," says Morgan. "I'm interested in taking a holistic look at
resources and in ecosystem management."
appointees also have strong interpersonal skills, which former BLM
leaders often lacked, says Carlson. "The agency has made a real
effort to move people with clear dynamism instead of moving up
people who have just survived in their jobs for 30 years." In
particular, she points to Alan Pierson, who will jump from Rawlins
District Manager, Wyo., to state director.
part of the Clinton administration's attempt to reinvent
government, Richardson says, the BLM will reduce middle-level
management, consolidate and quicken the decision-making process,
and increase accountability throughout the agency. By 1999 the BLM
plans to employ 10 percent fewer workers than in 1992. BLM offices
will lose 25 percent of their employees in Washington, D.C.,
Richardson says, while field offices around the country will gain
workers. State offices will enjoy freedom to set their own agendas,
and fewer national administrators will peer over the shoulders of
state directors, he says. Some critics of the BLM warn that such
freedom is a problem in the agency: State offices are run as the
private fiefdoms of state directors in the pocket of the West's
extractive industries (HCN, 5/16/94). But Richardson says the broad
goal of ecosystem management will help unify agency
Attorney Wald agrees the agency needs
streamlining. "But if all it's going to do is produce more bad
decisions faster, I don't want it," she says. "If the BLM is
interested in decisions that are going to be better for the
resources and better for the people who care about them, that's
Carlson of the National Wildlife
Federation says the future of the agency will be determined by the
loyalties of the new state directors: "They're going to be there a
long time. If history repeats itself, they'll weather political
changes (the comings and goings of administrations) fairly well."
"I think the directors will be a real legacy the
administration can point to," concludes Wald. "At least I hope so."
* Chip Giller, HCN