Sandoval returns home to head BLM Silt office

Alex Zorn

Longtime Colorado resident Larry Sandoval officially joined the U.S. Bureau of Land Management this week, returning to his roots to become the new field manager for the Silt-based BLM office.

The position had been filled by interim leadership for the previous two years. Sandoval will be taking over for acting field manager Gloria Tibbetts.

A swearing-in ceremony was held for Sandoval at the Silt BLM office on Monday, attended by friends and family.

BLM Colorado State Director Jamie Connell said during the event that she’s known Sandoval a long time, dating back to his time with the U.S. Forest Service in Glenwood Springs. She said she was proud to see him join the BLM.

“I was born and raised in Colorado, [and I’m] excited to be back,” Sandoval said.

Sandoval previously worked for the White River National Forest in Glenwood Springs from 2001 to 2006, before moving to other Forest Service positions in Wisconsin, Wyoming and Oregon.

During his time with the National Forest, he was the Forest Service liaison for the Glenwood Springs Pilot Energy Office, created to oversee oil and gas development. That office was eventually absorbed by the BLM office in Silt.

Sandoval said one of the biggest similarities he sees between the Forest Service and BLM is the emphasis on diverse multiple-use land management.

He said he looks forward to immediately diving into some of the big issues on the Western Slope, and plans to follow his predecessors and meaningfully engage with the public through each one of these issues.

Among those issues will be the ongoing debate over future oil and gas leasing in the Thompson Divide area west of Carbondale, where the BLM acted to cancel several undeveloped gas leases in recent years. The area is now part of a comprehensive public lands proposal by U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet to permanently close off the area to future oil and gas leasing.

“It’s critical that we serve the public, and it’s important that we do so in a collaborative fashion,” Sandoval said of that and other issues related to public lands use.

He said that collaboration with the public that the BLM uses on virtually every issue is what attracted him to the position in the first place.

Sandoval said the position is all about serving the public, and he looks forward to working closely with area communities to make informed and sound decisions for the BLM in 2019 and beyond.

Another local hot-button issue that Sandoval will be involved with will be whether to allow expansion of the Rocky Mountain Resources limestone quarry north of Glenwood Springs. The company recently resubmitted its application to the BLM for a major expansion of the permitted operation.

Sandoval said he expects it to be a contentious issue with a lot of interest from both sides. He said it is still very early in the process, and too early to know exactly what the end result will be. But he said he expects a very robust process with the public throughout.

As he begins his new position, Sandoval said his number one goal will be to get up to speed on the BLM organization, and its policies and procedures.

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