Outstanding Public Lands Professional Awards - 1989

Manager/Managerial - Administrative Category

Judy Nelson
Judy Nelson

THE PUBLIC LANDS FOUNDATION (PLF), an alliance of former and present Bureau of Land Management employees, has announced the 1989 recipient of their award to the Outstanding Public Land Professional of the year.

The 1989 award is given to Judy Nelson, Manager of the Bureau of Land Management office at Lakeview, Oregon, for her outstanding work regarding the Warner Valley Wetlands public lands area located in southeaster Oregon.  The Warner Wetlands is a 60,000-acre area of public lands located near Plush and Adel, Oregon, and while it has been predominately a livestock grazing area for many years, the area has great potential as a waterfowl production wetland.

Ms. Nelson was diligent in focusing public interest in the area, developing a wider support for converting the area of waterfowl production, and in developing a compromise solution to the livestock versus wetland issue.  During this time she was subjected to intense local pressure to “back off” and leave things the way they have been for fifty years or more.

She spent much of the past year trying to balance the resource issues with the political realities of such a novel action.  Her final decision removed livestock grazing from 30,000 acres of public land and established a waterfowl / wetland resource management plan for the pothole area.

Thanks to the tough decision making of Ms. Nelson, the BLM has changed decades of management and now will begin managing the area for its crucial wetland values rather than simply cattle forage.  Although six protests were received on Ms. Nelson’s final plan amendment, they were dismissed and the decision of record was issued in September 1989.

Ms. Nelson is the first female district manager ever appointed by BLM and it would have been easy and far less risky for her to keep a “low profile” at her new position.  It is to the public’s benefit that she did not.