Last week the Colorado Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced a new interim state director. Next month, Ruth Welch takes over for outgoing interim director John Mehlhoff. Mehlhoff took over this past fall when embattled state director Helen Hankins retired.
Welch is a Colorado native who has worked for the BLM for two decades. Most recently, she has served as director of the agency’s National Operations Center in Lakewood, which handles the agency’s human resource and IT operations.
Welch has her work cut out for her, as the state BLM office has come under fire for repeatedly proposing controversial plans that would put Colorado’s water, national parks, and wildlife at risk. Among these were plans to auction drilling leases next to farms and wineries in the North Fork Valley, next to Dinosaur National Monument, near Mesa Verde National Park and in the midst of metro Denver’s drinking water supplies for more than 2 million people.
According to an analysis by the Wilderness Society, in 2012, 93 percent of parcels in Colorado BLM sales were protested, while nationally just 12 percent were protested.
Businesses, local landowners, elected officials, sportsmen, park rangers, and others continue to urge BLM to use a balanced approach to development. Hopefully, new acting director Ruth Welch will heed this call and work with local communities and leaders to implement a balanced and commonsense approach to energy development.