Letters From the West

BLM’s Ellis heads to D.C. for temporary duty as agency’s No. 2

Steve Ellis, acting BLM deputy director of operations on a trail ride with Idaho Gov. Butch Otter this spring.

Steve Ellis, acting BLM deputy director of operations on a trail ride with Idaho Gov. Butch Otter this spring.

Idaho will see a temporary change in the leadership of the federal Bureau of Land Management as State Director Steve Ellis goes this week to Washington as BLM acting deputy director for operations for four months.

Ellis begins his temporary duty Tuesday, essentially becoming the number two person at the federal agency that has 10,000 employees and manages 245 million acres of federal land across the West. He replaces Jamie Connell, who returned to her position as BLM Montana/Dakotas State

While Ellis is gone, Tim Murphy, the assistant director for Fire and Aviation, who heads the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, will serve as state director. Peter
Ditton, current Idaho associate state director, will replace Murphy.

The temporary shifts are the result of the lack of a permanent director for the agency. Principal Deputy Director Neil Kornze, is the acting director. He tapped Ellis, who has been at the center of several major BLM controversies including the Gateway Transmission route review and the Owyhee grazing permit approval process.

“Over the past several months, I have come to rely on Steve’s expertise and leadership, and I know he will make a great addition to the team here in D.C,” Kornze said.

Ellis began his career in the BLM’s  Burley District in southern Idaho as a forester. His federal career has taken him across the West in the BLM and even into the U.S. Forest Service where he served as supervisor of the Fremont-Winema National Forest and
Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.

The former Congressional Fellow in the U.S. Senate, will likely find himself testifying in Congress in his new job. But he plans to return to Idaho when his stint is over.

Rocky Barker is the energy and environment reporter for the Idaho Statesman and has been writing about the West since 1985. He is the author of Scorched Earth How the Fires of Yellowstone Changed America and co-producer of the movie Firestorm: Last Stand at Yellowstone, which was inspired by the book and broadcast on A&E Network. He also co-authored the Flyfisher's Guide to Idaho and the Wingshooter's Guide to Idaho with Ken Retallic. He also was on the Statesman’s team that covered the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news in 2007. The National Wildlife Federation awarded him its Conservation Achievement Award.

Posted in Letters from the West