Lifetime Service Award
The Public Lands Foundation grants to George D. Lea, its Lifetime Service Award. The Foundation provides this award to deserving members who have perpetuated and enhanced the proud tradition of public service. George exemplifies that tradition through a lifetime of service in managing and protecting the public lands.
George D. Lea was born and raised in Illinois. He graduated from the University of Idaho with a degree in Forestry, and joined the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in December 1951, at Baker, Oregon.
The first half of his 30 year BLM career was spent in Oregon, where he served as Range Manager in three eastern Oregon Districts, Range Management Specialist in the BLM’s Oregon State Office in Portland, and District Manager at Vale. The second half of his career was spent in leadership positions in the BLM’s Denver Service Center and at the BLM’s Headquarters Office in Washington, D. C, including Chief, Division of Range Management; Chief, Resource Coordination Staff; Deputy Assistant Director, Resources; and Deputy Director, Lands and Resources.
After retirement, his continued interest and commitment to the BLM public lands led him to establish the Public Lands Foundation (PLF) in 1987. The PLF was originally intended to be a BLM retiree organization whose purpose is to promote and support the proper professional management of the lands and resources administered by the BLM. In 1998, membership in the PLF was opened to anyone who supported the objectives of the organization. George Lea was the first President of the PLF, a position which he held for 22 years.
George was much more than President. He was a “one-man-gang” who for over 20 years did most of the work in fundraising and growing membership in the PLF; finding national officers and filling State and local leadership positions; establishing goals and programs for the organization, and developing position statements on public land issues; testifying at Congressional hearings on BLM budgets and public land legislation; writing letters to BLM, the Department of the Interior and the Congress on public land issues; preparing the PLF’s quarterly newsletter; and organizing and conducting the PLF’s annual meetings in the western states.
In creating the PLF, George Lea provided a rallying point for BLM retirees to continue to contribute their efforts and support for the agency, for current employees to be informed about the experience of their predecessors, and for the general public to become involved in public land issues which affect them – issues such as keeping the BLM public lands in public hands, and the resource base in balance with nature, while it produces an abundance of multiple resource wealth for the Nation.
Giving an official name to the BLM administered lands was a personal crusade for George Lea, and his persistence culminated in Secretarial Order 3280 which was signed on December 16, 2008, designating the BLM administered lands as the National System of Public Lands.
At the PLF’s 1998 Annual Meeting in Park City, Utah, the PLF presented George Lea with it first and only Founder’s Award. The citation for that award states in part:
“George Lea rightly foresaw the interest, commitment and need for BLM retirees to remain involved in the issues of public land management, and has insisted that their views be considered. He has used farsighted efforts, persistence, tenancy, presence, salesmanship, diligence and a committed life to accomplish the aims of the Foundation. In all these efforts he has retained a gentlemanly approach, has strengthened friendships, and called attention to land management needs and dangers, and at the same time has led the way in commending good management efforts which lead to improved land management.”
The Founder’s Award was in recognition of his role in establishing and growing the PLF. George Lea’s name also need to be added to the list of those who have received the PLF’s Lifetime Service Award, for his lifetime of service to the BLM and the BLM administered public lands. It would be appropriate to do this in 2011, which is the 60th year of his “committed life” to the BLM, the BLM lands, and the Public Lands Foundation.
The Public Lands Foundation is honored to recognize George with this Lifetime Service Award, presented this day, December 13, 2011, at the BLM Headquarters Office, Washington, D.C.