Letters from the West

Former BLM Idaho director Whitlock dies

Clair Whitlock, a former Idaho state director of the Bureau of Land Management who died Tuesday in Boise, served from 1982 to 1985.

Whitlock, known as Sam, oversaw 11.8 million acres of rangelands, canyons, mountains and fish and wildlife habitat. He served in the same post for Arizona from 1980 to 1982.

The Utah native grew up on farms and ranches before graduating from Utah State University with a degree in range management. Today his daughter, Jenna, serves as BLM Utah state director.

Whitlock is best known in the BLM for what became known as the Whitlock Report, which in the 1970s laid out the need for a professional firefighting organization within the BLM and set the Bureau on a path toward achieving that goal.

“Clair recognized that fire had the potential to have a devastating impact on the West, and understood that the BLM needed a strong, well-trained force to manage it,” said Tim Murphy, BLM Idaho state director and former assistant director for Fire and Aviation.

Whitlock began his career with the BLM in Idaho, and worked in Nevada and Alaska as well as Arizona.

Whitlock also helped develop one of the first training programs for employees. He authored an integrated training strategy for BLM that was adopted by the agency in 1985.

Whitlock received the Interior Department’s highest award, the Distinguished Service Medal, in recognition of his more than 30 years in public land management. As a senior executive in Idaho, Alaska and Arizona, he was recognized for moving programs of national significance such as the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, State Indemnity Selections, mineral development, wilderness preservation and the Public Rangelands Improvement Act.

After leaving BLM in 1985, he and his wife Betty raised cattle on their farm near Kuna. From 1985 through 1994, he chaired a committee that was instrumental in convincing Congress to establish the Morley-Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area south of Boise.

A memorial service is planned on Dec. 28 in Boise. He is survived by his wife, daughters Jenna and Jo Ann and son Jim.

Rocky Barker: 208-377-6484, @RockyBarker