Outstanding Public Lands Professional Awards - 2021

Manager/Managerial - Administrative Category

Gary Torres
L-R Canyon County District Manager Gary Torres, PLF UT State Representative Bill Lamb, BLM Utah State Director Gregory Sheehan

The Public Lands Foundation is proud to recognize and award Gary Torres the 2021 Outstanding Public Lands Professional Award in the Managerial/Administrative Category.

Gary Torres has served in the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for more than 30 years. As the District Manager (DM) of the Green River District in Vernal, Utah, Gary directed implementation of the John D. Dingell, Jr. Act involving a Wild and Scenic River, Recreation Area, National Monument, National Conservation Area, 17 Wilderness Areas, several land conveyances and a large land exchange with the State of Utah.

As the Canyon Country DM in Moab, Utah, Gary now continues to lead and navigate the political tides of the Bears Ears National Monument. In five years, the district staff adjusted to three designations/modifications and completed two Monument land use planning processes. None of this would have been possible without Gary’s valuable relationship with BLM’s partners in the County and State, and with Tribal leaders, which he facilitated dialogue with openness and honesty leading to solutions.

During the last few years, the Moab and Monticello Field Offices have experienced significant resource impacts from increased visitation. The Moab Field Office (FO) is a recreation hot spot with about three million annual visitors. With Gary’s support, Moab addressed resource impacts from recreation use head-on by limiting dispersed camping in heavy used areas, building new campgrounds and advocating for additional planning.

The Monticello FO experienced increased visitation especially to the very sensitive and unique cultural resources. There has been political pressure to pause implementation planning, but Gary continues to stress a high priority to protect these valuable resources now.

Always ready to serve the Bureau, Gary, acted as the Utah Associate State Director in 2016/2017 during an Administration change. In 2020, Gary served as the Eastern States Director enacting a large-scale office move and bringing a field perspective and support to the Washington, D.C. offices.

Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, Gary enacted staff requests to issue free use wood permits to heat resident homes in rural areas, especially in a neighboring Tribal reservation. Gary’s example prompted others to follow suit reducing citizens’ long drives to a headquarter office for a permit.

Gary empowers next generation BLM leaders by entrusting them with difficult but growth opportunities such as complex travel management planning or logistics for high profile visits from members of Congress or governmental leaders. Gary’s political-savvy, experience, direct style and humor make him a sought-after mentor and employee counselor.

For Gary’s demonstrated performance and leadership, development of future leaders and proven ability to make a difference time and again, The Public Lands Foundation recognizes Gary Torres with its Outstanding Public Lands Professional Award in the Managerial/Administrative category for 2021.

Edward Shepard
November 24, 2021