BLM chief Robertson to retire

Catherine Robertson

The woman who headed the Grand Junction office of the Bureau of Land Management and oversaw a spike in growth over the last two decades is retiring as 2013 begins.

Catherine Robertson, who took over the office in 1992 and oversaw the development of mountain biking trails in Mesa County as well as the establishment of what is now known as McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area west of Grand Junction, will officially leave her post on Jan. 3.

Katie Stevens, field manager for the conservation area, will take over the Grand Junction office on an interim basis.

A career spent largely in one place is a rarity in the BLM, but Robertson said on Tuesday that she was never tempted to head a different office.

“When I looked around at where I was able to make a difference, it was here,” Robertson said as she looked out the window of her office at 2815 H Road.

Robertson, who managed a similar office in northern California before taking over the Grand Junction office, noted she wasn’t alone in seeing what she called “hidden economic benefits” of the sagebrush and redrock landscape tucked up below the high country.

“There was a number of folks who recognized the potential the BLM could be in terms of an economic driver to the community,” she said.

It was from that mix of people eager to take economic advantage of the Grand Valley’s assets that she was able to work with individuals and groups to lay the foundation for a mountain-biking mecca, off-highway vehicle trails, drilling for natural gas and other approaches to multiple use of public lands.

The Friends of the Mustangs was well established when she arrived, Robertson noted, and it will celebrate its 30th anniversary, Robertson said.

“We’ve been able to really look at where areas make sense,” allowing for people to pursue different forms of recreation — and industry — on BLM lands with minimal friction, Robertson said.

A regular user of the lands she has administered, Robertson said she plans to remain in the Grand Valley and continue her favorite pastime — exploring the landscape she has administered for decades.

She has yet to turn up a dinosaur bone or similar find, Robertson said, “but I have found some pretty amazing places.”


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