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President Barack Obama has nominated Neil Kornze to become director of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the agency that oversees about 42 percent of Utah's terrain.
A former senior adviser to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Kornze has been leading the BLM as the agency's principal deputy director since March. Before that, the Nevada native was BLM's acting director of policy and programs for 1½ years after joining the agency in January 2011 as a consultant.
Kornze's biography on the Department of Interior website said he was "a key player in the development of the Western Solar Plan and the agency's successful authorization of more than 10,000 megawatts of renewable energy," a goal reached three years ahead of schedule.
The website also said Kornze has experience with transmission siting, conservation policies, tribal consultations on oil and gas issues and renewable and conventional energy development.
Obama's selection of Kornze received considerable praise, although Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said he hoped the BLM leader would be willing to work with the state's congressional delegation on key issues.
"The fact that Mr. Kornze is from the West is a good thing," Hatch said. "I hope he understands the issues Utah faces, from multiple use on public lands to sage grouse management to hydraulic fracturing. There is a confirmation process in the Senate that all nominees must go through. I will bring these and other issues up with him as his confirmation is considered."
Trout Unlimited President and CEO Chris Wood said Kornze has "demonstrated a pragmatic, solutions-oriented approach to public lands challenges" during his tenure in Washington. He cited Kornze's appreciation for the value of conserving public lands so that they can benefit local economies..
The solar plan, Wood noted, "carefully considered the input of anglers and hunters in order to better balance energy development with the conservation of important fish and game habit."
Added Ross Lane of the Denver-based Western Values Project: "Westerners calling for balance between conservation and energy development will find no better advocate than Neil Kornze. Neil's history of reducing conflict on our public lands, as well as his commitment to reducing bureaucratic red tape, are positive steps forward to engaging sportsmen and women, farmers, ranchers, taxpayers and industry in efforts to conserve our heritage."
Because Kornze grew up in Elko, Reid said he understands the critical role public lands play in the economies of Western states.
Kornze worked for Reid from 2003-11, finishing as a senior policy advisory on public-lands issues, including mining, water, outdoor recreation and wildlife. He also has been an international election observer in Macedonia, the Ukraine, and Georgia.