BLM Arizona

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Jim Kenna, the state director for the Bureau of Land Management in Arizona discusses issues related to the natural resources that are managed by his agency.

Ted Simons: The state director of the Bureau of Land Management in Arizona is moving to California next month. To lead Bureau of Land ManagementH BLM in that state. We thought we'd talk to director John Kavanagh one more time about the millions -- Jim Kenna about that. Good to see you again. Thanks for joining us. You're moving, how come?

Jim Kenna: One of the things that happens when you agree to be an executive in the Bureau of Land Management is you serve at the pleasure of the secretary, and the secretary says we need you over in California, and my answer is yes.

Ted Simons: Yes. I know different beast over there, but probably some similar issues. I know in Arizona the border has been a major issue for you and your office. Talk to us about, and are we seeing improvements down there?

Jim Kenna: We are. We're seeing improvements and we're really hitting our stride I think in the last year. We talked about the border before, and we were always seeing some sort of overall declining border activity, but we had problem areas, and significant problem areas in Arizona. Particularly the two national monuments in the center of the state. Those cases we were seeing an increase in -- an uptick in activity that was wholly unacceptable. But a very big problem. So we had to figure out how to address it and we really tried to do it by focusing on three things. One, to increase or improve the safety, public safety out there. Two, to protect the public resources in those national monuments, and three, to do it cooperatively. Because it's too big a problem for anyone -- any one entity or agency to tackle.

Ted Simons: And there was cooperation, border patrol, sheriffs, DPS.

Jim Kenna: And it's been phenomenal. We have had the combat transnational threats, which was put in place by the homeland security, we have seen sheriffs step up, we've seen the department of public safety on the state side, we've seen the border patrol, we've seen immigration and customs enforcement step up. And we've seen tremendous efforts cooperatively, focus patrols, saturation patrols, night operations, shared intelligence, and we've done tactical things. We've put Normandy barriers in some places we wouldn't normally think about to move activity. We've taken off over 31 tons of garbage by cleaning off lay-up areas and listening post areas. And the listing posts are used by the drug cartel to direct traffic. And we've seen market improvements. And now we need to work this over a period of years and grow that geography that we're comfortable with how secure it is.

Ted Simons: Something else we've talked about in the past is the idea of renewable energy projects on disturbed lands, be they mines and landfills. How is that going?

Jim Kenna: Really well. I think probably two thoughts here that are really important. One is, again, we are seeing a lot of people step to the plate. Arizona State University has held three solar summits, the governor has been there, there's been an executive order out of the governor's office. So you have an alignment of national policy, state policy, and then the utilities in Arizona are working with us. There's a coalition of environmental groups that have become very, very active in these issues. We have the potential in Arizona, I think, to get to a shared consensus vision in about 18 months.

Ted Simons: So nothing has been chosen in terms of land sites yet, but things are being looked at.

Jim Kenna: We do have projects that are in motion. And if you look at where it is happening, it's happening where we have available east-west transmission capacity. So along the gila power line, for example. And you're seeing things like conversion of agricultural lands, you're seeing -- and that's important to the state in terms of the economics of it too. There's 435 jobs tied to building that project. Right now in a time when we're wrestling employment issues. So that you're seeing, and that is a disturbed land. We will ask the question about should that expand out on to private lands, or on to public lands from private lands. It brings up policy questions like should we have large number of very, very small plants in Arizona, or a small number of very, very large plants?

Ted Simons: I mentioned mines as part of the disturbed lands that were looking for renewable energy projects. Unsafe mines in Arizona has been a problem, I know for BLM you're looking at this, you're trying to do something about it. Is any progress being made? There's so many of those things out there.

Jim Kenna: Yeah, there are. And it's a very, very big problem. And it is going to take years to remedy the problem. So we need to keep the focus on it, we need to build as much capacity as we can. We seen a decline on the capacity of the stateside, we're doing our best to try and help with that. We're trying to inventory all the sites, first part of this is understanding the scope of the problem. And what we're finding is that it is huge. It will take, I would guess, decades to do the public safety clean-up we really need to do across this state.

Ted Simons: Last question, you're leaving, but you've got your ideas and you'd like to see some of those ideas moving ahead. What advice would you give to the incoming director?

Jim Kenna: Well, I think probably there are a lot of things that are over-the-counter workload, like the energy workload we talked about, the border stuff that needs to be in the day-to-day picture but there's also the long-term stuff, the heritage stuff of what we hand offer to the next generation, and I think that's really important as well. If you look at -- this is a very, very well endowed state in terms of community-based conservation lands. We have over 2 million acres in national monument and national conservation areas. Around that in the last two years, we've had 366 youth get work. And people like Maricopa County are stepping up, city of Phoenix, Audubon, student conservation association, the Phoenix public schools, there's curriculum being developed. It is really exciting.

Ted Simons: Well, good luck in California. Thanks so much for the work you've done here, and thanks for joining us tonight on "Horizon."

Jim Kenna: Thank you, Ted.

Jim Kenna: BLM Arizona State Director;

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