Biden taps Colorado wildlife advocate for key public lands role

By: - February 22, 2021 11:29 am

Rafters in the BLM-administered Browns Canyon National Monument in Colorado in July 2015. (Bureau of Land Management)

President Joe Biden’s administration on Monday announced new additions to its leadership team at the Department of the Interior, including Nada Culver, a Colorado-based environmental advocate with the National Audubon Society, for a key leadership role at the Bureau of Land Management.

Culver will serve as deputy director of policy and programs at the BLM, which oversees nearly 250 million acres of federally-owned land, nearly all of it in the western United States.

“As we work to advance President Biden’s vision for a clean energy future that creates good-paying jobs, protects the environment, and powers our nation, we are thrilled to welcome our newest teammates,” Interior chief of staff Jennifer Van der Heide said in a statement.

Culver will occupy a role previously held by William Perry Pendley, the longtime head of the Lakewood-based Mountain States Legal Foundation and a controversial conservative figure who faced criticism over his support for the privatization of public lands, denial of the science of climate change and comments comparing undocumented immigrants to cancer. As the BLM’s deputy director of policy and programs during the Trump administration, Pendley served as the agency’s acting director for more than a year beginning in July 2019, until a federal judge ruled last year that he was serving unlawfully.

Federal judge boots William Perry Pendley from BLM acting director role

Culver, an attorney who previously worked for The Wilderness Society and the law firm Squire Patton Boggs, recently helped lead efforts by wildlife groups to enact stronger protections through the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission in a major rulemaking last year. She joined the National Audubon Society in 2019.

In her role at the BLM, Culver will join an agency widely viewed as having been left in tatters by the Trump administration, which in 2020 relocated BLM headquarters to Grand Junction in a move that many environmental advocates believe was meant to dismantle its leadership and weaken environmental-review processes. Nearly 300 senior employees resigned or retired from the agency rather than relocate, the Washington Post reported last month.

An Interior spokesperson said last month that officials are working to “understand the ramifications of the headquarters move and determine if any adjustments need to be made.” Top Colorado Democrats, including Gov. Jared Polis and Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper, have called on the Biden administration to keep the new headquarters in Grand Junction.

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Chase Woodruff
Chase Woodruff

Reporter Chase Woodruff covers the environment, the economy and other stories for Colorado Newsline.