Bureau of Land Management Director Kathleen Clarke on Aug 12 named Selma Sierra, a New Mexico native with a long history of dealing with Western land issues, to head the BLM Utah state office.
"Selma brings over 25 years of experience dealing with western issues to our management team. She was born a westerner, educated a westerner, was a key staff member for a western governor and has been directly involved in BLM issues for many years," said BLM Director Kathleen Clarke.
Sierra, who is expected to report to the new position in November, will oversee the agency's Utah land management operations on 22.9 million surface acres, an additional 12.3 million acres of subsurface mineral estate and 2.3 million acres of tribal lands where BLM has trust responsibilities. She will have about 827 employees operating out of 12 offices in the state with an annual budget of about $57 million.
"Selma brings to our leadership table the demonstrated skill to both manage complex issues and at the same time, bring people together. While she has had a key role in BLM policy implementation, she has also been a force in identifying impacts of those actions and directing steps to reach out to those affected to achieve whatever levels of consensus are possible," Clarke said.
Sierra will replace Henri Bisson, who has been acting Utah state director in recent months, after former Utah state director Sally Wisely became BLM Colorado state director position. Bisson will be returning to his position of BLM Alaska state director.
As BLM chief of staff since 2005, Sierra was directly involved in formulating policies related to the multiple use mission of the BLM including all significant land use planning decisions; sage grouse habitat conservation strategy; the Healthy Forest Initiative; the new BLM recreation strategy, implementation of the Energy Policy Act, and formulation and implementation of BLM's annual budget of over $1.5 billion.
Sierra has worked at either the U.S. Interior Department or the BLM for eight and one-half years. Prior to being named BLM chief of staff, Sierra served as BLM's assistant director for communications. She also served in the Department of Interior as a special assistant for external affairs and later as deputy assistant secretary for human resources management, both for Interior Secretary Manual Lujan. Prior to that, Sierra served on the staff of the assistant secretary for land and minerals management and later served as deputy chief of staff for the governor of New Mexico.
She also served as the deputy press secretary for the House Ways and Means Committee and from 1995 to 2001, she served as press secretary to New Mexico Congressman Joe Skeen, who was chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior. She was then appointed assistant director at the U.S. Department of Commerce until 2003.
Sierra, a native of La Union, N.M., attended New Mexico State University, graduating in 1979 with degrees in journalism and government.
Some of the most important public land resources being managed by BLM in Utah include: energy, recreation, wilderness, wildlife habitat, and river resources. Some of the key areas of focus for the agency in Utah include Energy Policy Act implementation (about $178.9 million in royalties were collected last year), land use planning efforts (six land use planning efforts are underway), RS-2477, grazing permit renewals and recreation management.