Nicollee Gaddis-Wyatt. [Courtesy photo]

In August, Nicollee Gaddis-Wyatt was selected as the Bureau of Land Management Canyon Country district manager. Gaddis-Wyatt has worked for the BLM since 2010; in 2018, she held her first position with the Canyon Country office as an acting field manager. In 2019, she joined the Canyon Country office full-time as the Moab Field Manager and served that role until her promotion. 

As district manager, Gaddis-Wyatt oversees 3.6 million surface acres through the Moab field office and Monticello field office. The Moab Sun News chatted with her about the job and her goals on the recreational side of the BLM; the agency also manages land issues concerning oil, gas, and mineral leasing, grazing, wildland fire and fuels, and conservation. 

Moab Sun News: What does your day-to-day look like as district manager? 

Gaddis-Wyatt: Every day is a new day. I split my time between Moab and Monticello, so I’m usually in one of the offices two days a week and the other office three days a week—it varies from week to week based on what’s going on. 

Honestly, at the end of the day, I’m like, what the heck did I do? It’s a lot of coordinating. Our biggest project right now is Bears Ears in the Monticello area, and in Moab, there’s always a ton going on. But I have two excellent field managers who keep the day-to-day moving. 

When I was field manager, I was like the mother—I got to be involved with everyone’s life, which I love. And then in my new position, it’s like I moved into the grandma role. And so it’s like, I have my kids, but they’re far away doing their own thing. It’s just so different, the higher level. I’m more of a guide and advisor—I have to be the wise one now. 

MSN: What are your goals? 

Gaddis-Wyatt: My goals are to be that guide and to be like an umbrella: I want to shield my staff from things that they don’t need to worry about, and really be someone who they can rely on for guidance. I want to really focus on our customers and excellent customer service. I also want to complete our projects in the most sustainable way—we’re not going to make everyone happy, and we never do, but we want to make the best decisions that we can for the resources, the land, and the uses and the users.

MSN: I’ve never heard the BLM described as customer service—who do you see as the customers? 

Gaddis-Wyatt: Our customers are the public, in addition, the people who apply for certain things, our Special Recreation Permit holders, our permittees, we have tons of them. We are public servants, and that translates into customer service: we want to provide the best experiences and access, and provide things like clean toilets and marked trailheads. It takes a lot of effort to maintain all of that, and all our staff put in that effort. 

MSN: What challenges of the job are you anticipating? 

Gaddis-Wyatt: I think a lot of it is just the normal controversy—we have all the different groups we’re trying to appease. And then we’re trying to educate people: we’re telling folks what we’re doing and why, like for travel management or Bears Ears. A lot of these things are priorities that are sent down from our administration. They’re like, okay, you’re gonna do this project. And so we’re like, okay, we’re doing this, and here’s how, and here’s why, and this is why we need folks’ input, so we can do it the best way. 

MSN: With any new or updated project, how do you attempt to find the balance between what is best for recreation and what is best for the land? 

Gaddis-Wyatt: We rely on each of our specialists. For example, we have wildlife biologists who look at the wildlife and what habitat needs are, like for raptors; we have our recreation folks who analyze where people are traveling, or they want to get to. 

So we analyze all the different resources and uses, and then we rely on input from the public. We ask, ‘what are you using, and what are you using it for?’ There are motorcycles, UTVs, bicycles, hikers. We have to maintain all those uses, and at the same time, make sure user experience is ideal: you probably don’t want a UTV and a bicycle on the same road. So we rely on the public to answer: how do we separate that out, so they can both have an amazing experience, but so we’re not having internal conflicts?

MSN: How do you determine which projects qualify for public input? How big does a project have to be? 

Gaddis-Wyatt: It’s really at the discretion of the field manager. More often than not, if we know that folks are really interested and they’ve had some concerns, then we’ll open the project up for an official public comment period. But there are some projects that get renewed or updated that have been going on forever, and for the most part, people don’t want to waste their time on that. 

It’s kind of a judgment call. But every project is put on e-planning (the BLM’s website), and if folks make a comment, we’re gonna listen. So even if there’s not an official comment period, if we get some input, we take that input. If someone made the effort to make a comment, then they obviously have something to say.

MSN: What’s your favorite part of the job? 

Gaddis-Wyatt: My people—everybody I work with. I love my staff, and I feel really connected to everyone. And secondly, look at the beautiful place we get to work! I love that I get to have a hand in how visitors are experiencing it when they come. 

The BLM is really an awesome place. There are some people who just do not care for what we do because we’re a government agency and all that, but the people who work here love the land, they love the resources, and they want to do all they can to protect it. We want folks to have a great time and to be able to access all the places and be respectful and safe doing it.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.