The Bureau of Land Management last week announced the appointment of Greg Sheehan as the BLM’s new state director for Utah. Sheehan will begin Aug. 2.
“Greg Sheehan knows the people and lands of Utah as well as anyone, leading the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources for years and working collaboratively with the BLM and other federal and state agencies, conservation and industry groups, and other stakeholders on a host of land management issues in the state. We’re excited he has agreed to bring that expertise and the relationships he’s built over decades to lead the BLM’s work in Utah,” Deputy Director for Policy and Programs William Perry Pendley said.
But the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance believes Sheehan is a poor choice.
“Greg Sheehan is not fit to lead the Bureau of Land Management’s Utah state office,” said SUWA in a statement. “Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears national monuments and redrock wilderness are the crown jewels of the federal public lands in the lower 48 states entrusted to the bureau. In stark contrast, Sheehan’s resume is littered with the kind of parochial influence that makes him particularly unsuited to manage public lands. He has a history of making decisions at the behest of state and local governments, as well as high-dollar hunting groups and energy interests, that promote the heavy-handed destruction of public lands and wildlife.”
Sheehan will oversee management of nearly 22.9 million acres of public lands, representing about 42% of the state. Located mostly in southeastern and western Utah, these lands are varied, ranging from rolling uplands to sprawling desert lowlands. Utah’s public lands feature some of the most spectacular scenery in the world, from the snow-capped peaks of remote mountain ranges to colorful red-rock canyons, according to the BLM
Sheehan served as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service principal deputy director from 2017 to 2018. A career conservation professional, according to the BLM, Sheehan served for 25 years in the Utah Department of Natural Resources and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources – the last five years as the agency’s director.
“Sheehan’s lifelong passion for fish and wildlife, and his years leading a wildlife agency in a state with significant public lands and multiple use demands, have given him a deep understanding of the issues and complexities involved in the management of public lands,” said the bureau.
As principal deputy director, Sheehan led continuing efforts to expand public access for hunting and fishing across the National Wildlife Refuge System and other lands managed by the service. This enhanced access program has led to the opening of more than 1.7 million acres of refuge lands for hunting and fishing during the Trump administration. At both the state and federal level, Sheehan has focused on keeping hunters and anglers active, said the bureau.
As director of the State of Utah’s Division of Wildlife, Sheehan worked extensively with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other federal and state agencies to recover threatened and endangered species protected by the Endangered Species Act, one of the agency’s principal authorities. He brought the same proactive approach to implementing the ESA at the federal level. Under his leadership, the agency worked to accelerate species recovery and delisting efforts by strengthening and expanding partnerships with state and tribal wildlife agencies, and by expanding financial, technical and regulatory assistance for landowners to encourage voluntary conservation efforts on private lands. During his tenure, multiple species were delisted due to recovery, including the black-capped vireo and lesser long-nosed bat. Many more species have been proposed for delisting due to recovery or for downlisting because of their progress.
In his years with the Utah Division of Wildlife, Sheehan supported landscape-scale habitat restoration; identification of wildlife corridors; highway fencing and underpass construction; translocation of deer, bighorn sheep, bison and mountain goats; efforts to enhance sage grouse populations; restoration and rebuilding of the state fish hatcheries and extensive scientific research. As a result, during the last four years of his tenure, Utah’s mule deer population increased by more than 100,000 animals, leading to increased hunting and viewing opportunities for the public.
Sheehan earned a bachelor’s degree at Utah State University and later received an MBA. Greg and his wife have been married for 35 years and have two sons. He is an avid hunter, fisherman and wildlife photographer.
Doug McMurdo contributed to this report.