Kathleen Clarke

WASHINGTON — Bountiful-native Kathleen Clarke resigned Thursday as director of the Bureau of Land Management, bringing her job of managing 258 million acres of public land to a close.

Clarke was the first woman to head the bureau and the second person from Utah. Prior to becoming BLM director in January 2002, she was executive director of the Utah Department of Natural Resources.

In a statement issued Thursday, Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne called Clarke's work "truly inspiring."

"Our public lands, our forests and our landscapes are better off because of your service," Kempthorne wrote to Clarke in accepting her resignation, according to the statement.

Clarke will return to Utah, but the exact date of her departure from office or who will replace her — even on an interim basis — was not available Thursday. Clarke's successor will need confirmation by the Senate.

During Clarke's tenure, the Bush administration started evaluating oil, gas and other energy-development potential on public lands. She also faced a controversy where wild horses ended up in a slaughterhouse, and she evaluated grazing rules.

From 1987 to 1993, Clarke was director of constituent services and executive director for the Ogden office of Rep. James V. Hansen, R-Utah, as well as an assistant to the late Sen. Wallace Bennett, R-Utah, in Washington, D.C. She graduated with honors from Utah State University in Logan, earning a degree in political science.

Her resignation from the BLM directorship was met with surprise. Liz Thomas, an attorney with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, said Clarke's resignation is an opportunity now for the Bush administration to appoint someone who is "thoughtful and balanced" in conserving public lands while making plans for development.

Thomas said Clarke's tenure was the "most aggressive on development" and that "nothing was off limits" for energy development, road building or recreational-vehicle use.

"Everything was on the chopping block," Thomas said.

Thomas said no one at the BLM was really taking into account other values of public lands beyond their development potential for energy and other uses. She said she doubted anyone in Utah would want roads or energy facilities next to the "iconic" landscapes found throughout the state.

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