Former Glenwood Springs BLM field manager now state director
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — The new director of the Bureau of Land Management’s Colorado office has deep ties in Glenwood Springs and the greater Western Slope.
Jamie Connell has been named the new BLM director for the state, BLM Deputy Director Brian Steed announced Wednesday.
“Jamie brings a wealth of service and leadership experience to her new role. She has been at the forefront of some of our most important initiatives, and the expertise she’s developed will continue to benefit the BLM and the Colorado communities and constituencies we serve,” Steed said in a statement.
Connell, a native of Montana and graduate of Montana Tech, began her career with the BLM in 1985 as a petroleum engineer in Miles City, Mont. She has worked for the BLM and the Forest Service across the West, including Great Falls and Malta, Montana and Boise, Idaho.
Connell spent part of her 33-year career with the BLM on the Western Slope, and from January 2003 to December 2008, she led the Glenwood Springs Field Office, which is now the Colorado River Valley Field Office based in Silt.
In 2007, the BLM finalized a controversial Resource Management Plan that allowed more than 1,500 new oil wells over 20 years on the top of Roan Plateau. At the time, Connell called the planning process, which lasted nearly a decade, “extremely difficult.”
Conservation groups, hunters and recreational groups all vied against oil and gas interests over the plan, which later court orders altered.
Among the groups who submitted comments to the BLM on the Roan Plateau RMP was the Grand River Citizens Alliance. Leslie Robinson, current chair of GRCA, said she remembers several meetings with Connell at the time, though she didn’t know Connell personally.
“I think she understands the multiple use debate on BLM land,” Robinson said in an interview. As for Connell’s new position, Robinson wished her well. “I hope she follows through on oil and gas regulations.”
Robinson hopes that Connell will be able to fight for a good budget for the BLM, so rangers can spend time on the lands they manage.
“The BLM is so short of staff at times that they often don’t have the opportunity to be out in the field,” Robinson said. “If she doesn’t do a good job, you know she’ll be hearing from me.”
Garfield County Commissioner John Martin also remembers working with Connell during the Roan Plateau debates. “She’s fantastic. She knows her stuff,” Martin said in an interview.
Connell will take over the state BLM office during another controversial time for oil and gas drilling on public lands. A federal judge recently stymied the BLM’s plan to allow more than 6,000 new oil wells in land managed by the Colorado River Field Office.
Martin does not believe Connell will pick sides in policy decisions. “I don’t think she’ll play one side against the other, I think she’ll do her job,” Martin said.
Before taking over the Glenwood Springs field office, Connell was a ranger based out of Dillon.
Connell was selected to lead the Northern Colorado District based in Grand Junction in 2008, which covered the field offices of Glenwood Springs, Meeker, Craig, and Kremmling.
Most recently, Connell was the head of the Oregon-Washington state BLM office. Connell will take over the Colorado office from acting director Greg Shoop, who will return to his former position as associate state director.
In her new role, Connell will oversee 8.3 million acres of public land and 27 million acres of mineral properties. Most of the Colorado lands under BLM’s management are on the Western Slope.
Friday marked one year since the Silver Creek Fire sparked northwest of Kremmling in Routt National Forest and burned more than 20,120 acres, according to data from the Rocky Mountain Incident Coordination Center.