BLM names Nevada man as acting director

Mar 1, 2013

A Nevadan who served as a public lands, mining and wildlife advisor for U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid from January 2003 to January 2011 will be named acting national director of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which manages 253 million acres, or one-eighth of the nation’s entire land mass, mostly in the West.

BLM has not had a permanent director since May 2012.

A spokeswoman confirmed that outgoing Interior Secretary Ken Salazar would name Neil Kornze, 34, of Elko, to succeed Mike Pool as acting BLM director until a permanent director is nominated and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Salazar is scheduled to leave office in March. Pool recently stepped down.

Before Kornze was Reid’s senior policy advisor, he earned a Master of Science degree in international relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in politics from Whitman College in Walla Walla, WA.

Kornze joined BLM in January 2011 as acting director for programs and policy. He is the son of a geologist who discovered Barrick’s Betze gold deposit outside Elko.

Kornze is the second Nevadan to head BLM during the Obama administration. Robert Abbey, who was BLM director for three years, retired in May 2012. He was BLM’s state director in Nevada for eight years until 2005.

Kornze has traveled throughout the West, sometimes with Salazar, to address BLM issues ranging from Arizona mining to Nevada petroglyphs to Colorado oil and gas leases to North Dakota Indian reservations to Wyoming renewable energy to New Mexico river gorge protection to Oregon forestation.

Under Salazar, the Interior Department turned from its traditional focus on mining, forestry and oil and gas development on public lands to a new emphasis on renewable energy development. Since 2009, it authorized 34 solar, wind and geothermal energy projects projected to generate more than 10,000 megawatts of electricity, enough to power more than 3 million homes. — Mark Mendiola, WLJ Correspondent