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Managing public lands is a privilege

SHARE Managing public lands is a privilege

It is a privilege to serve as the new state director for the Bureau of Land Management. In this capacity, I would like to share my perspective on public lands management.

First, a little insight into my background will give perspective on my views. I was raised on a farm in New Mexico, the youngest of six children. My parents also ran a small grocery store and meat market. Western values; love of God; respect for nature, open spaces, work ethic and education; and the knowledge that "if you take care of the land, the land will take care of you" were ingrained from an early age. I also learned lessons of cooperation very early in life — relationships with neighbors are important. Working together and communicating to come to solutions that will work for everyone is one of the most important things we can accomplish in an interdependent society. Competitive sports have given me a drive for success.

This background led quite naturally into a career in public service — which I look upon as a high calling, to be entrusted with stewardship of the national good. My background made me intimately familiar with the impact the decisions of government have on the lives of individuals and our role to help sustain communities. My work in both the legislative branch and the executive branch added to that understanding. Working in constituent services for a U.S. congressman taught me to both listen and to represent the concerns of the constituents, while the executive branch experience I bring with me helps me see how implementing legislation impacts the lives of individuals and communities.

Because of the role the BLM plays in Utah, our decisions have the potential to impact generations to come, which is an awesome responsibility. This means that our decisions must be well thought out, and we must apply the best science and knowledge we have available to analyze options in light of our multiple-use mission. The BLM's stewardship spans from permitting grazing and range programs, energy development and providing recreation opportunities while protecting the health of the lands.

Grazing and range programs not only represent a unique Western way of life, they are also a mainstay of the economy in many small communities. Energy projects — both renewable and nonrenewable — on BLM land are critical components in our security as a nation. Recreation is an important piece of the multiple-use pie, and not only for recreation users but for the economic well-being of communities surrounding these areas. Ventures like the Watershed Restoration Partnership demonstrate the power of collaboration — where partners can come together to resolve critical needs, assuring the health of the land for future generations. Lands set aside as wilderness offer an awe-inspiring opportunity for all Americans and an opportunity to connect with nature at its most pristine.

We have tremendous resources in this state, and BLM's mandate is to manage those resources for multiple use. The public at the state and national levels look to us for stewardship of these resources from both the individual and community standpoints.

And for all of these opportunities and challenges that come with this task and mission, I am thankful. I am thankful for the chance to work and build relationships with people from "home" and thankful to call Utah home.

Selma Sierra is the director of the Utah state office of the Bureau of Land Management.