Department of the Interior

The Bureau of Land Management has a new acting director after Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke tapped Brian Steed to take over.

Steed, formerly chief of staff for Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah), will replace Mike Nedd, acting director for BLM since March.

“The West is in good hands with Brian Steed, my former Chief of Staff, leading as Acting Director of the Bureau of Land Management. He knows these issues thoroughly and will have great success,” Stewart told Western Wire.

On Twitter, Stewart called the appointment “huge.”

“HUGE shoutout to my former chief of staff Brian Steed, the new acting director of the BLM. He’s going to do such a great job. Huge for Utah. Huge for the West. Proud to call him a friend,” Stewart tweeted.

Nedd praised Steed, deputy director of BLM programs and policy, in an email sent to BLM staff this week, saying those at the agency “have come to know [Steed’s] ethic, his intellect, and his passion for our multiple-use and sustained yield mission.”

“His experience includes working as Chief of Staff to U.S. Representative Chris Stewart of Utah, teaching and researching economics at the University of Utah, and serving as a Deputy County Attorney in Iron County, Utah,” Nedd wrote.

“Brian has been an incredible asset to the Bureau since his first day,” Interior spokeswoman Heather Swift told Politico. “We are excited to have him temporarily step into this leadership role. We couldn’t be more thankful to Mike Nedd for leading the Bureau during the initial transition. Nedd helped execute big wins for sportsmen’s access, multiple-use, and energy development on BLM lands over the past few months.”

Steed left Stewart’s office in October to join the BLM as deputy director, with Stewart calling him a “brother.”

Steed served Stewart as his chief of staff since 2013.

Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), Chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, praised Steed’s expertise.

“Brian Steed has the expertise to help BLM partner with state and local governments to improve federal land management,” Bishop said in a statement. “I congratulate Brian and look forward to working with him to ensure the bureau is meeting the needs of local communities and fulfilling its core missions.”

Steed co-authoredpaper in the Journal of Private Enterprise entitled “Boon or Bust: Wilderness Designation and Local Economics” in 2016, challenging assertions by environmental groups that wilderness designations and the removal of multiple-use access and rights of way “generate economic growth.”

“We find no evidence that wilderness land designations represent an economic boon to local economies,” Steed and his co-authors at Utah State University wrote. “Rather, the evidence suggests that wilderness designations accompany worse economic outcomes.”

While other objectives in making wilderness designations—such as political or conservation—are met, such designations “economically disadvantage those communities,” and more attention should be paid to the “interests of local communities” the authors suggested.

“Our findings suggest that claims that wilderness also promotes economic growth are unfounded,” they wrote.

Nedd, who will become acting deputy director for operations at BLM, declared confidence in the BLM’s leadership.

“Since March 15, I have had the honor of leading the BLM. Your tireless dedication to our mission inspires me every day,” Nedd wrote. “DOI leaders continually express their confidence in the BLM’s leadership in the field and here in Washington, which is a testament to all of you. Thank you for supporting me as the Acting Director over these months, and remaining as ever BLM strong.”

President Trump still has to nominate a permanent BLM director, but it isn’t clear when that decision will occur.