BLM Moab Field Manager Christina Price, left, caught up with outgoing BLM Supervisory Park Ranger Miles Gurtler and retiring Grand County Trail Mix chair Sandy Freethey on Friday, Dec. 16. [Photo by Rudy Herndon / Moab Sun News]

Christina Price has only been on the job for a few weeks now, but in that time, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s new Moab Field Office manager has already made a big impression on co-workers like Lisa Bryant.

“I love Christina,” said Bryant, the office’s assistant field manager. “Look at that smile: She’s upbeat, she’s positive and she’s learning-focused, which I love.”

Smiles appear to come easily to Price, and her philosophy toward the job is rooted in the idea that BLM employees are ultimately citizens who are committed to serving the public.

“We all love the land, and we want to make sure that it’s here for future generations,” she said.

Price, who replaces former BLM Moab Field Manager Beth Ransel, has shown a strong interest in promoting employee training and professional development – two of the office’s main focuses, according to Bryant.

“She’s great with the staff, and her enthusiasm is contagious,” she said.

Price came to Moab for the first time last summer, when she was hired to work a 90- to 100-day detail with the local field office, which manages 1.8 million acres of public land in Grand and San Juan counties.

“From that, I learned that this is a perfect role for me,” she said. “I really enjoyed working with staff – what a great group of folks we have here.”

Bryant said she admires Price for her willingness to try new things – a willingness that she witnessed firsthand when she gave her soon-to-be boss stand-up paddleboarding lessons at Ken’s Lake.

Price’s crash-course introduction to the area continued over the summer as she toured historic ruins in the Beef Basin area and visited the famed Slickrock Trail, among other places.

“There’s so much diversity and opportunity here in Moab to get out and enjoy things,” she said.

Needless to say, southeastern Utah is quite a change from Washington, D.C., where Price worked as the BLM’s national program lead on communication site management and hydropower projects. Her time in the nation’s capital gave her an understanding, she said, of how the BLM works with Congress and supports field offices across the U.S.

Although she previously worked for the agency on the other side of the country, Price is hardly an Easterner.

She was born and raised in Henderson, Nevada, and unlike many residents there today, she can remember a time long before it became a sprawling bedroom community on the edge of Las Vegas.

“Back then, Henderson was a small place, and everybody knew everybody,” she said.

In those days, she said, she grew up playing on nearby public lands, where she enjoyed everything from hiking to catching lizards to motorcycle riding.

“Eighty-six percent of Nevada is public lands, and I’ve always loved the outdoors,” she said.

She might not be quite as agile as she was in those days, she said, but she still enjoys many of the same activities. When she isn’t in the office or out in the backcountry, she said she likes to spend time with her family that includes three grown sons – one of whom is nearing the end of his two-year LDS mission in Argentina.

Before she joined the BLM in 2010, Price worked in the private sector for geotechnical and environmental engineering firms, as well as homebuilders and civil engineers in the commercial development field.

She began her career with the agency in Ely, Nevada, where she worked as a realty specialist for the agency. As was the case with her latest position, the job opportunity in eastern Nevada’s White Pine County brought her to a spectacular part of the West that she’d never seen before.

“It opened my eyes to the beautiful outdoor adventures that could be had there, as well,” she said.

She eventually returned to the Las Vegas Valley to work for the agency’s southern Nevada district office as a realty specialist, and then as a power project team manager with cooperating Nevada utility NV Energy.

In addition to her time with the BLM, she worked briefly for the U.S. Forest Service’s Intermountain Region office in Ogden, where she specialized in the acquisition, disposal and exchange of lands. From there, she was off to the nation’s capital.

“Each step in my career has been a pathway forward, and I’ve learned things from both sides of the lands and realty side of the house,” she said.

Since she came on board in Moab at the start of this month, Price said she’s been working to familiarize herself with projects that the BLM is overseeing. They range from regulating oil and gas development in the Big Flat and Cisco Desert areas to increasingly popular outdoor recreational activities, and efforts to preserve cultural and paleontological resources.

“It’s multiple-use (management) at its finest,” she said.

Her arrival in Moab overlapped with the final approval last week of the BLM’s long-anticipated Master Leasing Plan for 785,000 acres of public land that it administers in southern Grand and northern San Juan counties.

The Canyon Country District Office will now begin to implement the plan, which aims to guide future development of oil, gas and potash inside the planning area. The BLM says the plan will protect exceptionally scenic and high-use recreation areas – as well as areas with sensitive resources – while focusing energy development and exploration in areas where fewer resource conflicts exist.

As more and more visitors come to Moab, the BLM also plans to ramp up its “Respect and Protect” educational campaign that is designed to teach them people how to responsibly enjoy public lands. Among other things, the BLM will be working to curb the spread of graffiti and other acts of vandalism in the backcountry, Bryant said.

It will also continue to partner up with Grand County and others to control noxious weeds and invasive species like tamarisk and Russian olive.

Last but not least, Bryant said that her office will work closely with permitees whose livestock graze on lands that the BLM administers.

“It’s not big, splashy stuff, but it’s an important part of what we do,” she said.

In the coming weeks and months, Price said she looks forward to visiting with people in the community to better understand the issues and concerns that they’re dealing with.

She said she appreciates the unique relationship that the agency’s Moab office has with the Grand County Council and other local officials, and she hopes to further it as field manager.

“It’s a great relationship, and I look forward to continuing to build that,” she said. “It’s nice when the BLM and communities can work together. That’s how it should be.”

Grand County Council member Mary McGann hasn’t had a chance to meet Price yet, but she said she hopes to introduce herself in the near future.

McGann said that she, too, values the relationship between the local field office and the county council, and has found that someone there is always available to answer her questions about public lands issues.

One time, she said, field office staff spent hours with her going over the details of the Moab Master Leasing Plan. On another occasion, she said, the office volunteered more than one of its staffers to sit down with her and talk about issues related to Rep. Rob Bishop’s Public Lands Initiative.

“I think the people who work there love this community very much and want to provide a balance between recreation, conservation and resource extraction,” she said.

Moab office welcomes Christina Price

It’s a great relationship (with Grand County), and I look forward to continuing to build that … It’s nice when the BLM and communities can work together. That’s how it should be.