Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 25, 2014

BLM Nominee Will Face Sage Grouse Questions

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The nominee to head the Bureau of Land Management knows he’s going to face prodding about the fate of a bird.

In a statement Friday, Republican Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada sounded optimistic about President Barack Obama’s choice of Neil Kornze to be the BLM director, noting Kornze’s ties to the Silver State.

“Any nominee to lead this agency must understand that good public land management and economic development are not mutually exclusive, an issue with which a Nevadan like Neil is familiar,” Heller said.

Heller added, however, that he planned to question Kornze at the Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing about the sage grouse, a large bird best known for its unique mating ritual.

“The BLM is in the process of making decisions about sage grouse conservation that could have an enormous impact on Nevada’s economy,” Heller said. “As a member of the Committee reviewing this nomination, I look forward to discussing this issue and many others with my fellow Nevadan as we work through the confirmation process.”

If the answers aren’t satisfactory, it wouldn’t be the first time that management of the wild sage grouse population in Western states has caused trouble for an Obama nominee. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell faced a temporary delay from Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, over a disagreement about a possible endangered species listing for the grouse.

Of course, Kornze should be very familiar with the Senate confirmation process. He worked for Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., for roughly eight years as a top policy staffer, according to his official biography.

“Raised in Elko, Nevada, he has seen firsthand the critical role that public lands play in the economies of Nevada and other Western states. Neil was a trusted advisor of mine for many years and I am fully confident he will be a successful BLM Director,” Reid said in his own statement.

The two Nevada senators participated in a “sage grouse summit” back in July.

Kornze is currently the principal deputy director at BLM.

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