BLM Upper Colorado River District manager begins new position as state files complaint over work in former role
As Greg Larson begins a new position with the Bureau of Land Management, representing Eagle County, the work he performed in his former position is being challenged in federal court.
In an effort to “align the BLM Colorado’s fire units to improve public and wildland firefighter safety, as well as create more efficient, logical geographic, and geopolitical boundaries,” the Bureau of Land Management realigned its district boundaries in Colorado in the fall of 2020, creating a new Upper Colorado River District, which encompasses all of Eagle County.
Larson was named the district manager for the new Upper Colorado River District, and begins the position on Monday. Larson will be stationed in Grand Junction.
Before joining the Upper Colorado River District, Larson served as the BLM Uncompahgre field manager in Montrose, where he led the controversial Uncompahgre Field Office Resource Management Plan to its completion last spring. The plan governs mineral extraction and other land use activities on federal lands spanning five counties in southwestern Colorado and is being challenged in court by the state of Colorado.
The State of Colorado filed a complaint on Friday in Colorado federal court challenging the approval of the plan; the complaint alleges that William Perry Pendley, a BLM deputy director, violated the Federal Vacancies Reform Act when he “improperly exercised the authority to resolve DNR’s protest while unlawfully occupying the role of the agency’s acting director,” according to the complaint. “Resolving such protests is a responsibility reserved exclusively to the Secretary of Interior, a U.S. Senate-approved BLM Director, or a legitimate acting director nominated by the President.”
Governor Jared Polis said the Uncompahgre Field Office Resource Management Plan creates unnecessary uncertainty and potential impacts to local recreation and outdoor industry jobs.
“The unfortunate fact is that if the Trump Administration had followed the law in appointing a Senate-confirmed nominee to lead the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Colorado and other western states would not be in this predicament,” Polis said.
Dan Gibbs, executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, said the plan runs counter to Colorado’s goals to protect sensitive habitat for wildlife and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“The complaint provides facts demonstrating that these concerns were not addressed appropriately, and the approval of the plan by Pendley’s BLM was invalid,” Gibbs said. “We are hopeful that the uncertainty caused by the questionable appointment can be clarified by the court so that Western Slope and Southwest Colorado communities can reliably plan for the future.”
For his part, Larson told the BLM his “passion for public lands grew tremendously as the Uncompahgre field manager,” according to a release issued by the bureau. “I’m thrilled to take what I learned and work with the newly minted Upper Colorado River District staff to provide the public with balanced stewardship of the area’s diverse resources.”