There are a few things I (Anthony Crosby) was hoping to accomplish when founding AAT. I wanted an individual’s stories to be shared with their peers. I wanted the advantages of independent media content publication to be recognized/celebrated. Moreover, I wanted the community to be able to form their own opinions on people/places in our city after hearing about those previously mentioned stories and experiences. AAT isn’t looking to convince anyone to support, fall in love with, or follow anybody; we exist to tell stories. We exist to share sides of people’s lives and experiences that may not get shared otherwise. We exist to do both things and then leave the rest up to our readers. Why? Well, sometimes it’s good to see/hear different sides of people and topics, especially when our own neighbors are involved. With all that said and kept in mind, let’s introduce today’s guests.
Today we’re joined by Brad Matthews (Geographic Information Systems Specialist) and Jearred Foruria (Assistant Fields Manager). These men both work at the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Elko district office. Their primary goal in talking with me was to offer some different perspectives on certain perceptions that come with being a federal organization. We’ll allow them to share their hearts for this community and what they do at the BLM; however, let’s get to know a little bit about who they are first.
Brad: How did I get involved with the BLM? Well, I lost a boxing match. I was in the army; I lost a boxing match, and my wife told me I wasn’t eighteen anymore, so I reclassified into a job that was a little less hard on the body and got into geographic information systems. Over time, there was just a natural transition to come and work for the government, about eleven years ago. I started with the BLM in Dickinson, North Dakota as a term employee for a resource management plan. In 2011, I took a job in Butte, Montana before coming over here (Elko) almost four years ago. Since I was eighteen years old, the longest I’ve stayed in one place was five years. I’m forty-four now, and this is the first place where I’ve talked with my wife about putting down tent stakes.
Jearred- I’ve been working in Elko for about a year and a half, and I’ve been with BLM for about five years. I was born and raised in ranch country in Idaho, and I had installed, from an early age, the value of our public lands, or what I call, the last great place. After high school, I joined the military and spent twelve years on active duty. After deciding to get out of the military, I moved here from Tillamook, Oregon. I was actually one of our law enforcement officers up there, but I wanted to look at different options and move up in the agency to become a manager, which brought me here. I love it because we’re fortunate. A lot of places, such as the East Coast, for example, don’t have public lands unless it’s more national park themed, but around eighty percent of the state of Nevada is public lands, which is mine and yours! I love the fact that I get to be a part of creating a legacy by playing a direct hand in the preservation, conservation, and protection of our public lands; to me that’s awesome.
Thank you, gentleman. Let’s now talk about your work at the BLM. What would you say you’re proud of when it comes to what you do there, and what would be a challenge or two you’re currently facing at your offices?
Brad- For me, it’s our district as a whole. Our motto is making a lasting impact, and that’s not just on the landscape; it’s an all-encompassing vision. That’s what makes it so nice to come to work every day because we have buy-in for that vision; we have a team of people who do want to go out and make a lasting impact. For years, people have viewed the BLM as the people who are out here taking away grazing and impounding cows, and I’m not saying we do that, but that’s a small negative piece of information that overshadows all the good things we do. Currently, if you go on Facebook, you’ll see hundreds of posts thanking our firefighters; that’s a large part of our mission, so people may not realize that when they’re thanking our firefighters, they’re also thanking the BLM because we have a large fire program. We need to get away from the negative perceptions that are put on the BLM because we do some much good that’s just not seen. For example, we created a partnership with the Elko Charter School, and every year we bring in fifty-third and fourth graders and show them the different equipment, our geologist put on programs to get them interested in the actual rock side of minerals, and our weeds people put on a display about weeds and weeds identification. Basically, every resource area we have gets buys into it, and it’s a huge event!
Jearred- To me, what matters the most are the members of the public. We serve our members of the public, our public landowners. Hunting around here is a way of life. Ranching around here is a way of life. Therefore, knowing I started my life with those staples in it and now I get to work for the people for the greater good of our public lands, to me it’s awesome, and I love it. Is it all peaches and roses? No, it’s not. The greatest challenge we face is a perception. It’s the perception that the big bad federal government is going to come and take over, but that’s just not true; it’s not. We have nearly twelve million acres in the Elko area alone…we don’t want anymore! We’re not trying to restrict access or make things harder for people. People may forget that our laws are created at Congress, and whether you or I agree with them when you get orders from headquarters, that’s what you do. We’re only doing what we’ve been tasked by Congress and the Secretary of the Interior to do; that’s all we can do. We have to follow our regulatory requirements. Also, if anyone has any animosity or discontentment towards the agency, I would invite them to here (BLM offices) and talk with us; we don’t have anything to hide. If you have a sincere question or something on your mind, I’ll take some time out of my day to at least be transparent. I know that goes for everybody here because, at the end of the day, we’re just people too who are trying to do right on the part of the American public.
Wonderful. To conclude this feature, why don’t you share a little bit about when the Elko area means to you, personally?
Brad- I want to actually make a commitment to see things out to retirement here in Elko. I think that says a lot because it’s not just the beauty of the area, it also has a lot to do it this office here at the BLM. This is the first place where I’ve ever consciously made friends because the people in this office are so diverse, open-minded, and just great people. They’re the ones who make it all happen; the staff here is the real driving force behind everything. We’re doing things here that make me want to stay here and come into work in the morning. A lot of people don’t have that, even someone making six figures at the mines may wake up and think about how they don’t want to have to go in today.
Jearred- Well, I can tell you this, I love it. The schools are good. The people are good. I haven’t had a bad experience; it has everything we need. My family and I love the outdoors, so we’re constantly hiking the Ruby’s. There are so many things about the area that are great. I think the community as a whole is plugged in with one another, which shows me that this community is about its people. I value that. I’ve lived all over the country, being in the service, and of all the places I’ve lived, I’d say this is one of the best.
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See you around the public lands, Elko!