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BLM gets new Utah director, and land challenges await

BLM gets new Utah director, and land challenges await

(Bureau of Land Management))


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SALT LAKE CITY — The Bureau of Land Management announced Wednesday that an agency veteran will lead Utah operations, filling the shoes of Juan Palma, who left more than a year ago.

Edwin L. Roberson, a 37-year career leader with the BLM, comes to the Utah post after serving as director of the BLM National Operations Center in Denver, where he oversaw the agency’s operational and technical support for information technology, finance and human resources.

Roberson also served in top leadership roles in New Mexico and held senior level positions in Washington, D.C., including a seven-year tenure as the BLM's assistant director for renewable resources and planning, a position that oversees a number of BLM resource programs.

“Ed is a good listener, a proven coalition-builder and a natural leader. We are fortunate to have his experience and expertise in Utah,” said BLM Director Neil Kornze. "Ed has guided some of the agency's most important work during his career, and his experience working with local communities makes him the perfect fit for this job.”

Roberson will lead an agency at the forefront of the public lands controversy in Utah, where frustrated rural leaders have challenged BLM road closures by participating in ATV rides that left them with federal criminal convictions.

In Salt Lake City, the Utah BLM offices became the first in the country to postpone an oil and gas lease sale because of a protest planned by the Keep It in the Ground Movement.

Law enforcement contracts between the BLM and local sheriff offices have also been a source of rural strife, with multiple county commissioners traveling to Washington, D.C., to demand personnel changes due to accusations of a "rogue" agent who has soured relations.

Ranchers have also sued the U.S. Department of Interior over what they say is mismanagement of the wild horse and burro populations that have degraded rangeland conditions and threatened their livelihood.

On the flip side, the BLM has been a tempest for wild horse enthusiasts who say the agency favors grazers over native horse populations and institutes "cruel" roundups that injure or kill the horses.

Utah, too, is among several states in the West that are suing over BLM management plans on the imperiled sage grouse. States say cornerstones of their own sage grouse conservation plans were ignored in federal plans they assert are too restrictive and not based on science.

As head of the often embattled agency, Roberson will lead a team that administers 23 million acres of public lands and 32 million acres of minerals and energy resources in Utah.

Roberson, who begins his new job Oct. 3, has bachelor's and master's degrees in urban planning from Auburn University in Alabama. Email: amyjoi@deseretnews.com Twitter: amyjoi16

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Amy Joi O'Donoghue

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