SUU’s Leavitt Center for Politics and Public Service hosted a panel of local public lands figures to answer questions concerning land management, law and preservation on Feb. 28.
Panelist Celeste Maloy, an alumna of agriculture, now serves as the public lands policy advisor and attorney for Washington county. Maloy worked as a soil conservationist for 10 years before deciding to become a public lands lawyer.
“People’s lives depend on elements provided in public lands,” she said. “I could (have) either stopped caring or go to law school.”
The panel also included SUU’s Outdoor Engagement Director, Briget Eastep, who works to connect student interns with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the National Parks Service (NPS), the U.S. Forest Service and other state parks.
According to Eastep, 100 percent of interns from SUU’s Intergovernmental Internship Cooperative (IIC) said their internship influenced their opinion on public lands.
“(These internships) are changing conversations at dinner tables,” she said. “(Students) see things (from) a different perspective.”
The third panelist, Ahmed Mohsen, the BLM District Lands Manager in Cedar City, graduated from the University of Nevada as a geologist and geophysicist. After his first summer job at the BLM, he said he has remained passionate about public lands.
“Public lands are yours and your natural heritage,” he said. “ They are the reservoirs of our greatest treasures … You can’t put a price on a recreation experience. ”
The Leavitt Center asked questions to panelists concerning public land issues in Southern Utah.
Eastep stated many residents feel congress needs to reevaluate laws on public lands, specifically the National Environmental Policy Act.
“I always hear ‘Protection Act’,” she said. “It really is a policy act … It’s not asking us to protect all the lands but asking us to look at the uses within those lands and to balance them between conservation and use.”
According to Mohsen, the BLM in Cedar City often partners with offices in Arizona, Nevada and other states to protect and preserve land and endangered species. The Colorado River and desert tortoises, for example, are protected by several states.
“These are not (just) Utah issues,” Mohsen said. “These are American issues. These are public land issues and we all have a stake in it because it affects (everyone).”
Maloy said she was concerned about Southern Utah residents’ perceptions on the legal preservations of public lands. She explained her involvement in the Bears Ears National Monument boundary change.
“None of (the media headlines) are remotely true,” she said. “(Bears Ears) was BLM land before it was a monument. It was BLM land while it was a monument and it is BLM land today.”
To learn more about the Bureau of Land Management, visit the Cedar City BLM website.