Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Biden eyes new leadership at troubled public lands agency

The Biden transition team is in the early stages of developing a shortlist of potential nominees to lead the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), a public lands agency critics say has slipped into disarray during the Trump administration. The BLM could be a particularly useful agency for an administration intent on shifting climate policy and reducing emissions, but it has largely been hollowed out in the past four years. The bureau has lost nearly 70 percent of its Washington-based staff during the Trump administration, and many environmentalists decry what they see as an effort by Trump officials to forge ties with oil and gas companies that drill on public lands at the expense of conservation. “They pushed Humpty Dumpty off the wall, and someone needs to put Humpty Dumpty back together again,” said Ken Rait, who directs the public lands project at the Pew Charitable Trusts. There’s a growing consensus among the agency’s proponents that the next director needs to be someone who is intimately familiar with the organization in order to stabilize BLM and boost the morale of its remaining employees...Public lands advocates have floated a number of possible contenders for BLM director in the Biden administration: Steve Ellis, who held the highest-ranking career position at BLM during the Obama administration; Nada Culver, a lawyer with the Audubon Society; and Neil Kornze, who led the agency under former President Obama. Kornze did not respond to an email inquiring about his interest in the job. Ellis and Culver said they have not been contacted by the Biden transition team about the BLM director role, while adding that they have not sought the job either. But both Ellis and Culver — two vocal critics of how the agency has been run under President Trump — offered their thoughts on what needs changing...MORE

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