Utah State University
Utah State


In Utah, where the BLM oversees 40 percent of the land, Kathleen Clarke's confirm- ation was greeted in the same bi-polar fashion that characterizes many public land debates in the state. "She is good for Utah and western oil," the president of the Utah Petroleum Association was quoted as saying. "This is a victory for those who want to exploit public lands for short-term greed," said a spokesperson for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance quoted in the same article.

In one efficient meeting with the oresident, Kathleen Clarke received her marching orders. "Focus on results. Remember who you answer to, the American people." By results, President Bush particularly meant energy development. In a declaration of independence from overseas suppliers, and with the enthusiastic support of the region's Republican congressional delegation, he has authorized the reopening of the western frontier to rapid oil and natural gas development.

Ever the optimist, as evidenced by her big smile and deep belly laugh, Kathleen Clarke sees opportunity where others see irreconcilable differences. "The West is where we deal with resources and challenges and conflicts, but it's also where we find our partners. It's where our citizens are, and it's where we find solutions to problems," she told the Society of Range Management in a fall 2002 Casper, Wyoming, meeting.
Near the start of the speech, she made her position clear. "Two heads are better than one and ten are better than two, and it's good to have at least half a dozen that aren't government."

She is a vocal supporter of, and regular panelist for, Enlibra, the western governors' forum advocating greater local say in public land use decisions. Enlibra, the brain child of former Utah Governor Mike Leavitt, is Latin for balance.

Kathleen Clarke brings the same vision and management style to her federal post that she did to her previous job, directing the Utah Department of Natural Resources, another highly charged agency once likened to a collection of lightening rods. On her promotion to that position by former Governor Leavitt, she joked with a Deseret News reporter about her upcoming bucking bronco ride as the first female director of a predominantly male agency with a half-dozen strong-willed oversight boards.

"I hope I was appointed because of my qualifications, not because I wear a skirt. … Not that I do anyway," she told the reporter, pointing at her tailored pants. Her self-deprecatory humor proved an effective way to disarm potential critics. In her three-and-a-half years at the helm, she melded seven departments with oft-competing missions into a collaborative unit with a strategic plan. She brokered deals that produced the first comprehensive management plan for the Great Salt Lake and the first fire and grazing management plans for the entire state. A compact with federal agencies created the map for Utah's first off-road-vehicle trail system.

"She is a good listener and synthesizer. The policies and practices that she proposes are grounded in the reality of what the true situations are," says Fee Busby, dean of Utah State's College of Natural Resources.

Clarke's collaborative management style and political pragmatism date to her first term in Washington as a receptionist in the late Senator Wallace Bennett's office. As a staff member for former Congressman Jim Hansen, she really learned "how things are done," Clarke recalls. "I learned the importance of relationships and trust building. Once you have a personal relationship, it's difficult to make a decision that obliterates others' interests." more


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