SALT LAKE CITY — Ted Wilson, a long-time environmentalist who was tapped as Gov. Gary Herbert's chief environmental adviser to help broker consensus in an often divisive arena, is stepping down for a position in the private sector.
His departure was announced Friday by Herbert's office, which noted he will stay on as chairman of the Governor's Council on Balanced Resources, as well as remain as a member of the Governor's Energy Task Force.
"With his vast public service experience and inclusive leadership style, Ted has been a tremendous asset to our team and the entire state of Utah," Herbert said. "He is a collaborator and we brought people together on some of the most difficult issues, from RS2477 roads, to the creation of county-by-county resource management plans for our public lands. Ted's multifaceted expertise has been invaluable and he will certainly be missed."
Wilson said he is leaving for a position as director of governmental relations with Talisker, an international development firm that owns Canyons ski resort and multiple other properties in the Park City and Deer Valley areas.
"I'm 72 and it is a chance at one more encore deal," he said. "I felt it was time to re-pot and put some new dirt around me. ... If I had not had this job offer, I would still happily be working for the governor."
Wilson, former vice chairman of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and executive director of the Utah Rivers Council, has served in the post at a time when Utah has been a player in multiple high-profile issues impacting public lands — from rescinded oil and gas leases by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to angst and lawsuits over county access to so-called RS2477 roads.
The establishment of the Governor's Council on Balanced Resources was touted as a way to tackle controversial issues in advance of litigation, bringing in multiple parties to solve issues through compromise.
Members dealt with furor over the impacts of changed Bureau of Land Management policies with the advent of the Obama administration and sought input on the state's role and liability when it comes to management of threatened or endangered species, among other issues.
Wilson said he believes there were some milestone achievements made during his tenure with the governor — such as a pilot project in Iron County dealing with contested road issues — but work remains to be done.
"I hope he picks someone with true environmental instincts," he told the Deseret News.
Some in the environmental community, however, have become increasingly disillusioned with Herbert.
"I have not talked with Ted about his decision," said Scott Groene, executive director of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, "but there is a growing frustration within the conservation community over the governor's positions which jeopardize Utah's quality of life."
Groene pointed specifically to Herbert's strong stand he took against Interior Secretary Ken Salazar over the so-called wild lands policy which directed the BLM to reinventory its lands for potential wilderness qualities.
Wilson, however, rejected any suggestion there was a difference of political opinion that led to his departure.
"Not at all," he said. "He's a great guy to work with. ... The governor's vision on balanced resources is alive and well."
Herbert will announce Wilson's replacement in the coming weeks.