Monument's science chief to take D.C. post

Published March 24, 2008 1:00 am
She will move to BLM branch that oversees more than 850 areas of scenic river, wilderness

Marietta Eaton, Grand Staircase science administrator, is moving to Washington, D.C., to take a post with the National Landscape Conservation System.

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KANAB - From the redrock solitude of southern Utah to the bustling pace of Washington, D.C., Marietta Eaton is moving on.

The science administrator of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument will be taking over a similar post for the National Landscape Conservation System (NLCS), based in the nation's capital.

As part of the Bureau of Land Management, the conservation system oversees more than 850 scenic river, wilderness areas, wilderness study areas and historic and scenic trails on agency land.

"We want to find more effective ways of implementing and applying science programs where we can," said Eaton, who takes over her new position on Tuesday. "We want to make science usable."

She is well-suited for the job, having spent two years working with a diverse team of state and federal officials to devise the management plan for the Grand Staircase monument created in 1996 by President Clinton.

The monument of deep canyons and high plateaus sprawling over 1.9-million acres in Kane and Garfield counties was the first national monument to be managed by the BLM. Now the agency manages 15 nationwide.

Eaton said her biggest challenge has been staying the course as outlined in the proclamation that created the monument and incorporate it into a management plan.

"It was great being in on the philosophical discussion of the ideals that created the monument," said Eaton of the two-year effort. "We pioneered new ground. It was a paradigm shift to have a mandate to protect the scientific and historic values of an area. It was a new thing for the BLM."

Jeff Jarvis, head of the NLCS, who recruited and hired Eaton for the new position, said he has known her since the beginning of the Grand Staircase and is looking forward to the collaboration.

"She has been a leader . . . overseeing one of the most diverse [monuments] we have in terms of cultural, paleontology, [resources], in addition to soil science, range-management science and rare animals," said Jarvis from his office in Washington, D.C.

Eaton, who was born in Albuquerque, N.M., describes herself as "a fifth-generation 'southwestern.' "

After graduating from Northern Arizona University with a degree in archaeology, Eaton worked for the U.S. Forest Service in Arizona and California until hired by the BLM in 1997.

She lived in Cedar City while the management plan for the monument was created before moving to Kanab in 1999 with her daughter Savannah, now 21, who is attending college in Portland, Ore.

While the monument's designation opened a hornets' nest of controversy - from grazing to road issues - Eaton said she kept above it all and actively participated in the community.

She served on the board of the Kane School Foundation for Students, helping to raise funds for education, and was community chairwoman for the Kanab Library.

"I learned to participate in the community as a citizen and got along well with everyone," said Eaton as she packed up her Kanab office. "Living in a smaller community offers the opportunity to be involved more than [in] bigger cities."

Dixie Brunner - Kanab's Southern Utah News editor-publisher who has served on boards with Eaton - said the community's loss will be the country's gain.

"Her love for scientific education was amazing," said Brunner. "She was integral in expanding different sciences on the monument and can now go and serve even more people in her new job. She is a good person."

Eaton said she will never forget her time at the monument, or the projects and people she has been associated with.

"Being able to meet the specialists and researchers and others whose perspectives have been changed by such a vast landscape has been amazing. It's been an exciting ride."


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