Agency cheerleader

  • John Singlaub

    Photo courtesy BLM

Note: This article is a sidebar to this issue's feature story.

John Singlaub is the manager of the Carson City, Nev., office of the BLM. During his 20 years with the agency, he's worked in four states at every level of the organization, and he's known as a man of action. In Colorado, when the state office refused to fund the Kokopelli mountain bike trail, he organized a crew of volunteers and built the trail anyway. The popular trail on the Utah border eventually won an award from the secretary of the Interior. "I'd broken every procurement regulation that had ever been written," he says. "At first, everybody was pointing fingers, and then everybody was trying to take credit."

John Singlaub: "In comparison to the spotted owl controversy, where you had extremely strong opinions on both sides, where people were coming armed to public meetings, there was a lot of apathy about Walker Lake. The environmental community in Nevada is stretched very thin, so there's only a small voice speaking for a huge variety of issues. It was a struggle just to get people's attention. I don't think the irrigation folks in the Mason and Smith valleys ever thought there was going to be the kind of support for Walker Lake that there is now, that they weren't going to be able to carry on business as usual.

"I've always tried to do the right thing, although I may not always do things right. When I was the brand-new kid on the block, (all the federal agencies) were saying that Walker Lake wasn't their responsibility. Water is clearly a very sensitive issue here, and they were very hesitant to get in the middle of the argument. I think the strong commitment of our agency got the discussion going.

"The only way we can do anything, given our budget, is to build partnerships with grassroots organizations. They can do the behind-the-scenes work and help to build support. If we were out there all by ourselves, nothing would be getting done. For the Walker Lake Working Group, this isn't happening fast enough, but at least it's happening. There's a very small group of people working for the lake there, and there's only so much you can do with bake sales to buy water rights. When we combine forces, we're all stronger."

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