Letters From the West

Idaho’s Ellis becomes BLM deputy officially

Steve Ellis, BLM deputy director of operations on a trail ride with Idaho Gov. Butch Otter in 2013.

Steve Ellis, BLM deputy director of operations on a trail ride with Idaho Gov. Butch Otter in 2013.

It’s official. Steve Ellis is the BLM’s Deputy Director for Operations.

The veteran land manager who began his career in the agency as a forester in Burley,  and until recently was state director for the BLM in Idaho, has been acting deputy director since July 2013. The move took him to Washington where he serves under Neil Kornze, the Bureau of Land Management’s principal deputy director and acting director, who awaits confirmation as director.

Ellis oversees the day-to-day operations of the agency, which has more than 10,000 employees and a $1.2 billion budget. Pretty good for an Illinois farm boy who started with the government as a seasonal firefighter in college.

Today he’s second in command of  the agency, which manages 245 million acres, mostly located in 12 western states, including Alaska. The BLM also manages 700 million acres of subsurface mineral rights nationally.

Those resources are used for energy development, livestock grazing, recreation and timber harvesting. It also protects 27 million-acres in its National Landscape Conservation System, which includes 221 Wilderness Areas totaling 8.7 million acres, and 16 National Monuments with 4.8 million acres.

Steve Ellis

Steve Ellis

Steve has served at all levels of the organization, holding posts in Alaska, Oregon, Nevada and Washington, DC.

“He will bring to his new position not only a tremendous work ethic but also 21 years as a line officer in both the Forest Service and the BLM,” said Kornze in a letter to staff obtained by the Idaho Statesman.

He and his wife Linda, a nurse practitioner, enjoy packing horses and have adopted a BLM wild horse. He told me late last year he misses Idaho but has appreciated the opportunity to be near Arlington National Cemetery where his daughter Jessica Ellis is buried.

Jessica, a combat medic who was killed by an improvised bomb in 2008 during Operation Iraqi Freedom, was serving in the U.S. Army.

Kornze said Tim Murphy will continue to act as BLM Idaho State Director. That means the two Idahoans will continue to shape critical BLM policies on controversial issues like sage grouse management, grazing in Owyhee County and routing of the Gateway West transmission line.

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.

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Posted in Letters from the West