Director of the Bureau of Land Management: Who Is Neil Kornze?

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Elko, Nevada, native Neil Kornze was nominated on November 8, 2013, to lead the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in the Department of the Interior, the office responsible for managing the nation’s public lands, mostly located in Western states. Kornze’s nomination was approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on January 16, 2014.

 

Kornze’s father, Larry Kornze, worked for mining interests much of his life. He was general manager of exploration and U.S. exploration manager for Barrick Gold Corp. from 1987 to 2001. The younger Kornze attended Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, was named to Phi Beta Kappa and earned a Bachelor of Arts in politics in 2000. He went on to get a master’s in international relations from the London School of Economics.

 

Beginning in 2003, he worked in the office of Senator Harry Reid (D-Nevada), primarily on issues related to public lands, including mining, renewable energy development and wildlife. He was instrumental in the development and passage of the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009. That bill designated 2 million acres of wilderness, more than 1,000 miles of wild and scenic rivers and three national park units.

 

In January 2011, Kornze moved to the BLM, first as senior advisor to the director, and later that year he became the BLM’s acting deputy director for Policy and Programs. Kornze was named the bureau’s principal deputy director, and he has been acting as BLM director since that time. During his tenure with the bureau, Kornze worked on the Western Solar Plan. Its aim is to develop utility-scale solar energy development on BLM administered lands in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah.

 

Kornze’s age, 34 when he was nominated for the post, would make him one of the youngest agency heads in history. Despite his family ties to the mining industry, and his close association with mining champion Reid, Kornze’s nomination to lead the BLM drew praise from many environmental groups, including the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters.

 

Kornze earlier served as an international election observer in Macedonia, Ukraine and Georgia. In 2009 he married Mara Gassmann, who is now an attorney with Levine, Sullivan Koch and Schulz specializing in media and entertainment law.

-Steve Straehley

 

To Learn More:

Obama Picks Nevadan Neil Kornze As Next BLM Head (by Jodi Peterson, High Country News)

Official Biography

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