Wilson Arch and nearby parcels of land are administered by the BLM Moab Field Office. One of the office’s most recent projects has been to solicit public comments on a proposal to develop an oil well on BLM land near the arch. [Photo courtesy of BLM / Chad Douglas]

The Bureau of Land Management’s Moab Field Office is under new supervision with the departure of the manager who oversaw the agency for nearly two years.

Christina Price began working as the manager at the Bureau of Land Management Moab Field Office in December 2016. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) said recently that Price left the Moab office and now works at the BLM Salt Lake Office.

The BLM oversees 1.8 million acres of public land in the Moab area. The Moab team of BLM employees handles a wide range of land uses and activities including recreation, oil and gas mining, livestock grazing, research, conservation and special events.

Price is originally from Nevada, and was working for the BLM in Washington, D.C., when she accepted the position in Moab in 2016.

She has been involved with land management in various roles and locations throughout her career, from working as a BLM real estate specialist in Ely, Nevada, to heading the BLM’s program on communication site management and hydropower projects at the national office.

The move to the BLM Salt Lake Office, where Price will serve as the branch chief for lands and realty, is motivated by her wish to be closer to her husband and adult children who live in that area, Price said.

Price told the Moab Sun News that it was a hard decision to leave because she enjoyed the community and the employees in the Moab area.

“I’m going to miss my staff a lot,” Price said. “They’re a great group of professionals who really care about their resource and the surrounding community and the land.”

She said she will miss the diverse recreation opportunities around Moab, the strong sense of community and the beauty of the landscape; however, being close to her family is most important to her.

“I think that’s something we can all understand,” said Lisa Bryant, who works in the BLM Moab Field Office as the public affairs specialist.

Though her tenure in Moab was short, Price led the office through some of the agency’s challenges and duties. In 2017, the office fielded public comments on wide-scale proposed oil and gas lease sales in southeastern Utah.

“The BLM welcomes your diverse views as public involvement is an integral part in our evaluation of the proposal,” Price said in a September 2017 press release to announce the public comment window on the environmental assessment documents related to the land parcels.

Price oversaw the approval of the most recent Moab Amended Business Plan for BLM campgrounds, which increased campground fees on Oct. 1 to help pay for maintenance and provide for the construction of new campgrounds in the Moab area.

Resource protection is another aspect of the BLM’s mission. In a highly publicized incident in March, a visitor was photographed vandalizing Corona Arch, a local recreation area managed by the BLM, and an investigation followed. In public comments regarding the incident, Price encouraged people to be responsible stewards of their public lands.

Though she offered public comments and staff leadership throughout these operations, Price emphasized that her staff members were the experts who hammered out the details. Her role, she explained, was keeping informed of all ongoing projects, and building on relationships with the community and BLM partners.

“Every little success just adds up to create big success,” she said. “As a field manager, you touch every resource that is there and every issue that is there. So it’s not like it’s just one thing that you do — you’re involved, and you have a great staff that keeps you involved and that works out the hard issues.”

The BLM-Moab staff reciprocated Price’s appreciation.

Lance Porter is the BLM Canyon County District manager, which the district is comprised of the Moab Field Office and the Monticello Field Office. He had good things to say about the departing office manager.

“Christina has done an exceptional job and I wish her the best in her new position,” he said. “We will really miss her ‘can-do’ attitude and smiling face. Christina has always been willing to tackle the difficult tasks and maintain a positive attitude.”

Price said there were challenging aspects to the Moab Field Office manager position.

For instance, the BLM’s mission includes managing public lands for multiple-use purposes.

“Multi-use doesn’t mean every acre of land is multi-use,” Price said. “That can be a challenge, finding that delicate balance.”

She also listed employee recruitment and retention as an ongoing difficulty, citing the scarcity of affordable housing as one of the root causes. 

An interim Moab Field Office manager has been contracted to serve in Price’s vacated position, during which time the job opening is being announced and a candidate will be selected for the permanent position.

That acting manager, William Dean, is expected to arrive in December, Bryant said. He is the associate district manager of the BLM’s office in Prineville, Oregon. Though located in the notoriously wet Pacific Northwest, Prineville has a semi-arid climate with similarities to Moab’s landscape. Dean has worked many years in Oregon and Montana as a wildlife biologist, and is knowledgeable about high-desert and sagebrush landscapes. 

Bryant was pleased with the district’s choice for acting field office manager.

“I was happy when I saw the announcement about Bill coming to help out,” she said. “I had the opportunity to work for him on a temporary assignment in Lakeview, Oregon, several years ago. He’s a really nice man, smart, and easy to get along with. He’ll fit right in here.”

Price had some advice to offer the incoming manager: believe in your staff.

“Trust in them and rely upon them. Some folks have been there for a long, long time,” she said, and added that they are the best resource for an office manager to understand the local issues. 

Until Dean arrives in December, Jennifer Jones, the current assistant field manager for recreation and visitor services, will be the acting office manager. She will have support from Lance Porter and

Jordan Davis, the assistant field manager for natural resources.

Bryant said the office is committed to maintaining the agency’s relationships with its partners, the community, stakeholders and visitors. 

“We’ll work with the staff that we have and ensure that we have continuity in everything that we’re doing,” Bryant said.

The BLM Canyon Country District has a long list of ongoing operations.

Current projects include processing applications for special recreation permits in 2019 and soliciting public comments on oil and gas lease sales; most recently, the BLM’s public comment period ended on Nov. 14 for input on a new oil well proposed near Wilson Arch.

While Dean is serving in his interim position, or “detail” as it’s called at the BLM, the district will be going through the procedure of hiring a new permanent office manager.

Bryant said that usually a “detail” position will not exceed 120 days, though specific contracts will vary. That gives the office several months from now to choose a candidate.

Bryant acknowledged that the hiring process can be long, but said it is important to be deliberate.

“You want to make sure you take the time to do it right, and select a good candidate who’s a good fit for the office and for the community, like Christina was,” she said.

Christina Price moves to new position in Salt Lake City

“Every little success just adds up to create big success,” she said. “As a field manager, you touch every resource that is there and every issue that is there. So it’s not like it’s just one thing that you do — you’re involved, and you have a great staff that keeps you involved and that works out the hard issues.”