Friday, June 16, 2017

Potential BLM pick has fought for ranchers, property rights

Jennifer Yachnin

Karen Budd-Falen, a Wyoming-based property rights attorney and member of the Trump administration's transition team at the Interior Department, is in the running to take the helm of the Bureau of Land Management, according to sources in both the conservation movement and ranching industry. A White House spokeswoman declined to confirm that President Trump has decided on a nominee for the post. Sources familiar with the selection said it would be unlikely to be made official until after Trump's nominee for deputy secretary of the Interior, David Bernhardt, is confirmed. In the meantime, Utah state Rep. Mike Noel (R), who heavily promoted his own interest in the BLM post after the November elections, praised the potential selection of Budd-Falen. "If it's Karen, she'd do an outstanding job," Noel told E&E News. "She's a champion for our issues." Noel acknowledged that he had actively sought the post, including a one-on-one meeting with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke during his recent visit to the Beehive State, and said he would still like to serve the Trump administration in some capacity. "I'm still interested in doing what I can for the president or for the secretary in any way I can help," he said. "But it's not about me, it's about getting a job done, and Karen Budd-Falen is certainly well-qualified." A Wyoming native, Budd-Falen grew up as the fifth generation on her family ranch in Big Piney. She received her undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Wyoming before going on to spend three years in the Interior Department during the Reagan administration. Budd-Falen did not return a request for comment this week. In an interview with The Aspen Times in 2007, Budd-Falen acknowledged she was at times impatient with her work at Interior, where she served as a special assistant to the assistant secretary for land and minerals management, and later at the Mountain States Legal Foundation. Those postings prompted her decision to open her own law firm with her husband, Frank Falen. "I like making decisions and then acting on it," Budd-Falen told the newspaper. "I'm really cause-oriented, I really believe in ranchers and farmers and what they do. That's the reason I went to law school. I don't love the law. To me, the law is the way I'm helping the people I love." Recent press releases on the Budd-Falen Law Offices website tout the Trump administration's review of dozens of national monuments, criticize the now-defunct Obama-era BLM Planning 2.0 rule and cheer Budd-Falen's appointment to the transition team...more

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