“The (educational) work that has been done on the GSENM is absolutely centerpiece,” commented new BLM State Director Juan Palma, of his August 24-25 visit of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.

The former BLM Eastern States Director was getting familiar with Utah BLM lands. From Toppenish, WA, Palma attended BYU, graduated from Oregon State University, and got a masters degree in environmental science from the University of Nevada-Reno. He held BLM management positions in Las Vegas, and worked as well in the Lake Tahoe-Reno, Nevada area. “I grew up in a rural community, and have primarily always been around the west.”

Palma said he spent nearly his whole visit in the Kanab area on the ground learning about the monument. “I like to meet people and hear their concerns, face to face and eye to eye.”

On the RS2477 roads issue he said he was pleased about the pilot program (county/government) in Iron County, that attempts to address the complicated issues. “Sometimes timing is everything,” said Palma, adding he believed both sides want to focus on an agreeable outcome, and desire a resolution to the years-old issue.

Palma said that in fact, he has one priority coming into his new position. “We need to resolve the roads issues. I’m hopeful the county will meet me halfway. We need to all sit down around the table, and resolve the roads that are in question.” He added they needed to discover what would give the counties more certainty.

“One way is to really listen to people,” said Palma. “Public agencies need to pay attention and lend some understanding and empathy. There needs to be more understanding from both sides of the issue. Somewhere in the middle will be the answer, but it needs to start with a conversation.”

Palma also stressed that every community has a change catalyst, someone who is willing to breakthrough in bringing conflicting parties together. “The BLM can and should support them.”

“I’ve been so impressed with this area,” said Palma. “All of the people I have met have been wonderful. I’ve been so impressed with their willingness to talk to me and their knowledge. I do think we have a wonderful opportunity here.”