Outstanding Public Lands Professional Awards - 2011

Technical/Operational Category

Presentation of award (l to r): BLM Director Bob Abbey, Awardee Mark "Sparky" Taber, and PLF President Henri Bisson.

MARK “SPARKY” TABER has a talent for organizing complex operations, managing people and implementing action.  He is always thinking about how to get things done in the most efficient way possible.    And, he exhibits passion, innovation, professionalism, and commitment to protecting and enhancing riparian resources in western Colorado.
According to Grand Junction Field Manager Catherine Robertson, “Sparky possesses a wealth of knowledge, tremendous creativity, and is relentlessly committed to getting things accomplished at the ground level.  He has made a huge difference in keeping riparian areas healthy.”


As a resource specialist with the Bureau of Land Management’s Grand Junction Field Office, Sparky has been recognized statewide for his work to eradicate noxious weeds in western Colorado over the past decade.


Sparky also has been recognized for his work with BLM’s OHV Safety Program.  His contribution to a significantly improved safety training program for BLM employees has enhanced the Bureau’s ability to provide quality ATV “hands on” training.


Taber has worked tirelessly with innovative approaches to rid riparian areas of noxious weeds, which can have a devastating impact on wildlife habitat if left unchecked. Among Taber’s many accomplishments over the past decade, he designed a special “weed raft” to reach infested areas with no road access. He helped lead the effort to cut down hundreds of invasive Russian olives and tamarisk trees along the Colorado River in Ruby/Horsethief Canyon, then helped devise a drip system to water the cottonwood trees planted in the campsites along the river.


Taber is a key player in the Dolores River Restoration Partnership – a coalition of private, federal, state, and county entities working to restore riparian areas along the Dolores River between McPhee Reservoir and the confluence of the Dolores and Colorado rivers just north of Moab, Utah.  The Partnership spans 4 Field Offices and two states, and the complexity of meeting the challenge of landscape management of a complete riparian system is ever present.  As a key BLM staff person for the Partnership efforts, Sparky’s development and implementation of programmatic NEPA documents, grant writing, and development of an Assistance Agreement that could be utilized by all BLM specialists has greatly improved the efficiency of staff.  In addition, Sparky ran full speed in support of the Department’s Youth Initiative and his support enabled the Grand Junction Field Office to utilize eight Youth Conservation Corps interns as well as Conservation Corps crews for a majority of his project work.  Sparky’s abilities as a mentor and teacher are legendary and this is perhaps one of his greatest strengths that he continually shares with the Field Office.

Mark “Sparky” Taber’s extraordinary performance in an operations/technical role has earned him the Public Lands Foundation’s Outstanding Public Land Professional Award in the Operations/Technical category for 2011.