Photo of a rig in Colorado.
A rig in Colorado.  (BLM)

The Year of Three Agencies

By Larry Bauer

It will be hard to forget 1982.  That was the year that some 700 employees of the Conservation Division of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) cycled through three agencies without ever filling out a job application. 

The Department of the Interior, then under Secretary James Watt, was under fire for failing to accurately account for royalties due on the production of minerals not only from the public lands but also from the Outer Continental Shelf.  The Linowes Commission completed a report after a lengthy investigation.  In January 1982, a Secretarial order established the Minerals Management Service (MMS) by taking the Conservation Division of the USGS and melding it with the Outer Continental Shelf Division of the BLM.  Ten months later, another Secretarial order took the 700 people in the onshore section of the MMS and placed them in the BLM.  At one time, some of the Conservation Division personnel were under consideration for transfer to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, but that idea was later rescinded.  At each transition from one agency to another, employees were given a letter advising them that they could accept the transfer, retire, or resign.

When things settled down and each person was in their new agency, the question in BLM remained—where in the organization would the Conservation Division be located?  A personnel management committee, made up of senior BLM personnel and new executives from the Conservation Division, met to decide where to place employees.  Locations were identified and offers were made.  Sometimes an individual had an opportunity to choose among offices.

I was offered and accepted a position as the assistant district manager (ADM) for minerals in the BLM’s Craig, Colorado, office.  The proposed organization was for my division to have a branch of solid minerals and a branch of fluid minerals.  The two branch chiefs and an inspection and enforcement coordinator had also recently been transferred to Craig. 

Arriving in Craig in June 1983, we began the work of completing our staffing efforts.  Petroleum and mining engineers were hired.  Geologists were recruited.  The existing clerical staff was assigned new duties to support us.  Lease and well files were transferred from the Grand Junction office to Craig.

It soon became apparent that the BLM and the Conservation Division had different ideas about how to do things.  The district manager and associate district manager in Craig readily offered me opportunities to transition to the BLM way of doing things.  The ADM for operations, who had been in the Craig office for over 30 years at that time, became a mentor to me. 

One challenge we faced was that our typing workload overloaded the few people in the typing pool.  (Yes, this was in the days before every employee had a personal computer and the typists used Wang word processors.)  Another challenge was that the Conservation Division engineers and geologists and the BLM resources staff viewed drilling oil wells and digging coal mines differently.  There was a lot of conflict resolution that took place before we arrived at the final conditions under which oil and coal projects were to be undertaken.  A lot of discussion occurred, and as each side came to understand the other’s viewpoints, conflicts gave way to teamwork. 

In my opinion, going to work for the BLM was the best thing that ever happened to me.  The breadth of responsibility of Bureau work was exhilarating.  I was able to learn about the public lands, meet new people, and travel to new locations. 

After working in the Craig District Office (now the Little Snake Field Office), Larry Bauer transferred to Phoenix, serving at both the Arizona State Office and the National Training Center prior to his retirement.