As two avid public land users, we were honored to lead the Bureau of Land Management. We certainly had our tests and challenges.
Neil brought westerners together to protect habitat for the greater sage grouse and worked to protect lives in the face of an armed insurrection led by the Bundy clan. Jim was an ardent and outspoken proponent of public lands reform known for his no-nonsense style and unwillingness to sacrifice his principles for political gamesmanship. In our time guiding the agency, we learned what it takes to manage more than 10% of America’s land – at times under fire, political and otherwise.
We can tell you unequivocally that President Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the Bureau, Tracy Stone-Manning, has what it takes and will be an outstanding BLM Director. There’s a reason some of the west’s strongest leaders, like Jon Tester and Steve Bullock, have trusted Tracy’s steady hand and fair mindedness.
Tracy has long been a responsible steward of our nation’s public lands and waters. Early in her career she led the Clark Fork Coalition, which oversaw the cleanup of the Clark Fork River Superfund site, creating thousands of jobs while restoring the river that runs through the heart of Missoula.
She then served as a senior advisor to U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, focusing on forest jobs. From there, Tracy was tapped to be the Director of Montana’s Department of Environmental Quality, where she led water, air, mining and remediation programs.
Later as Montana Gov. Steve Bullock’s chief of staff, she shared responsibility for the successful operation of the entire state government and its 11,000 employees. And now with the National Wildlife Federation, Tracy serves as senior advisor for conservation policy and was a major force in the bipartisan push to expand the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
That’s a lot of experience to bring to bear. And it’s exactly the kind of western, hands-on, local perspective that we need in the next BLM director.
Of course, experience is only as good as the wisdom you gain from it. And Tracy has amassed support and respect from a broad range of stakeholders. Westerners like Chas Vincent, a logger and former Republican state legislator in Montana, praise her ability to work with people on all sides of an issue to find workable solutions. Everyone from environmentalists to fossil fuel executives say the same.
People across the spectrum see Tracy as someone they can work with, and the BLM’s “multiple use and sustained yield” mandate requires exactly the type of collaborative approach that she has been known for throughout her career.
Tracy’s experience and resolve are needed at the BLM now more than ever. It was recently revealed that a staggering 87% of BLM headquarters staff left the agency as a result of the Trump Administration’s haphazard relocation strategy. That’s 287 people, and it represents an incalculable loss of knowledge about how to manage our shared public lands and the nation’s largest, most complex natural resource agency.
We need someone strong and thoughtful to rebuild the BLM. It needs to be done with a deep western sensibility and by a person known for having an open door, an open mind, and dusty boots. We need a leader who believes in public lands and what they mean to all Americans. Tracy is that person.
There is only one conclusion here, of which two former BLM directors can assure you: America’s public lands, and all those who use and enjoy them, will not get a better or fairer Director of the Bureau of Land Management than Tracy Stone-Manning.
Neil Kornze is the CEO of the Campion Advocacy Fund and served as director of the Bureau of Land Management from 2014-2017.
Jim Baca served two terms as New Mexico state land commissioner, served as mayor of Albuquerque, New Mexico’s natural resource trustee and as director of the Bureau of Land Management from 1993-1994. He also serves on the Board of the Wyss Foundation.