Outstanding Public Lands Professional Awards - 2008
KAREN RICE of the Idaho Falls District has demonstrated exemplary leadership and commitment in preserving habitat and conserving open space along the South Fork of the Snake River and Henry’s Lake Area of Critical Environmental Concerns (ACEC). Since 1998, she has worked tirelessly in providing project oversight to protect the lands from development and preserve the natural wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities along the river and lake. This effort includes leading a partnership with The Nature Conservancy, Teton Regional Land Trust, and The Conservation Fund to work on behalf of BLM with willing landowners. As a result of this collaborative effort, these three regionally and nationally recognized conservation organizations have become the principal points of contact in securing thousands of acres in conservation easements and fee title acquisitions from willing sellers adjacent to the South Fork and Henry’s Lake ACECs.
Karen also formed additional partnerships to further leverage BLM opportunities for these land conservation efforts. Among them are the U. S. Forest Service, Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, Bonneville Power Administration, Natural Resource Conservation Service, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and private landowner donations.
Early on in this land conservation effort, many questions and strong concerns were expressed from Congressional offices, county commissioners, and landowners about BLM acquiring the additional lands. As the project manager for these land conservation efforts, Karen was instrumental in successfully educating a wide range of publics and interests regarding the importance of these projects, ultimately gaining their complete support. Her efforts have been instrumental in transforming the South Fork of the Snake River into a premier national land conservation program. Karen’s work in acquiring lands in fee or with conservation easements into public ownership has assured the sustained management of these crucial habitats, open spaces, and recreational opportunities.
Karen has been the project manager of the land conservation program for over 10 years. Typically, with a land acquisition program of this magnitude, a senior realty specialist would be the project manager. However, due to staffing and workload limitations, Karen willingly took on the lead role as project manager. Incredibly, she performed this function throughout the 10-year period while continuing her normal duties as ecologist, district resource coordinator and associate district manager.
Karen’s passion for protecting the resource motivated her not only to take on the additional responsibility but also to perform with extreme courage in a field outside her professional background. Resolute, she fully accepted the high risk associated with a U.S. Government land acquisition project of this magnitude in a conservative region of the country where a large percentage of lands were already public lands. Karen Rice’s work and dedication have rightly earned her the Public Land Foundation’s 2008 Outstanding Public Lands Professional Award in the Technical/Operational category.