The new BLM director is expected to review the Uncompahgre Resource Management Plan, which critics say favored oil and gas development. (Pixabay)

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By Eric Galatas

May 10, 2021

DENVER — President Joe Biden’s pick to direct the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is getting high marks from conservationists.

Aaron Kindle, director of sporting advocacy for the National Wildlife Federation, believes Tracy Stone-Manning, currently the federation’s senior advisor, is the right person for the job.

There hasn’t been a Senate-confirmed BLM director since 2017, and Kindle said the agency needs someone who understands what needs to be done to conserve, restore and steward America’s public lands for all users.

“Responsible energy development, hunters and anglers, hikers, agricultural businesses that rely on the area for grazing,” Kindle outlined. “We need somebody who understands all those things and is ready to work with all of those folks to get the job done.”

If confirmed, Stone-Manning would be responsible for managing 10,000 employees, 245 million surface acres of land, and the nation’s onshore mineral estate.

She served as chief of staff for Montana’s Democratic governor Steve Bullock, and directed the state’s Department of Environmental Quality. Stone-Manning was a vocal critic of the Trump administration’s moves to prioritize oil and gas drilling on public lands.

Kindle noted the biggest challenge facing Stone-Manning could be the BLM’s about-face on fossil-fuel development, from rapid leasing under Trump to Biden’s pause on oil and gas lease sales.

The Denver-based Western Energy Alliance has filed suit to challenge the pause, arguing the move violates several laws and amounts to a permanent ban.

“Finding that sweet spot is going to be the biggest challenge,” Kindle contended. “Figuring out what the resources are we need to protect, but then getting back to some semblance of what responsible energy development looks like. And then bringing in the renewables; renewables are not without impact as well.”

Kindle added managing Colorado’s eight million acres of BLM lands and 27 million acres of mineral rights presents unique challenges, in part because of the state’s rapidly expanding population.

“There’s a lot of human and natural-resource conflicts and issues, so someone who can look at those issues fairly, understand all the different variables that go into making good decisions is really what we’re going to need in Colorado,” Kindle concluded.Disclosure: National Wildlife Federation contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Endangered Species & Wildlife, Energy Policy, Environment, Public Lands/Wilderness, Salmon Recovery, and Water.

References:  Uncompahgre Resource Management Plan BLM 06/28/2019
White House Executive Order 01/27/2021
Lawsuit against Executive Order Western Energy Alliance 01/27/2021