BOISE — Idaho’s state Land Board voted unanimously Friday to offer Dustin Miller, currently director of the governor’s office of species conservation, the job of director of the state Department of Lands.
The offer is contingent on Miller passing a background check, which is expected to take until next week; the hire won’t be formalized until then. But Miller already has accepted the offer, and agreed to a salary of $135,000 per year.
He succeeds former Director Tom Schultz, who stepped down in January to become vice president of government affairs and community outreach for Idaho Forest Group, a family-owned wood products company. Schultz had been the agency’s director since 2011.
“Dustin is highly regarded as a leader in Idaho’s natural resources field, and we are confident in his ability to lay out a vision for the Department of Lands and help the Land Board meet its many duties, especially as trustees of the state’s endowment lands and funds that support our public schools,” Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter said in a statement. “His strength is building strong working relationships across state and federal agencies, user groups, the Idaho Legislature, and others to solve complex natural resource issues.”
More than 60 people applied for the position; the Land Board, which is chaired by the governor and includes the state’s top elected officials, interviewed three finalists last week. In addition to Miller, they included Teri Murrison, who is currently Idaho Soil and Water Conservation Commission administrator; and Bill Haagenson, who is acting deputy director and operations division administrator at the Department of Lands.
Current state forester and Deputy Director David Groeschl, who has been serving as interim director since Schultz left, didn’t apply for the permanent position, opting instead to stay in his current job, which is based in Coeur d’Alene.
Miller, 38, holds a bachelor’s degree in environmental science from the University of Idaho; he was named to head the Office of Species Conservation in 2012, after previously serving as the office’s environmental liaison and starting there in 2008. There, he’s been involved with fish and wildlife conservation initiatives including wolf conservation and delisting, Yellowstone grizzly bear delisting, salmon and steelhead conservation, and the development and implementation of the governor’s sage grouse conservation strategy.
Miller also worked previously as natural resources field coordinator for then-Sen. Larry Craig and as an issues advocate for the Idaho Farm Bureau.
Miller told the Idaho Press, “It was a unique opportunity, and I’ve always been passionate about the outdoors and stewardship of our natural resources. And I think the staff at the Idaho Department of Lands do an exemplary job of managing Idaho’s natural resources for the benefits of our endowments. I’m excited to be a part of that team and a part of that mission.”
As Friday’s announcement was made, Miller was busy preparing to leave this weekend a six-day float trip on the Main Salmon River, on which he’ll be gone all next week. “A friend in our group drew a permit and we’ve had this planned and on the books for a long time,” he said. “I really enjoy river rafting, hunting and fishing, anything in Idaho’s outdoors — I’m no different than any other Idahoan in really appreciating what we have here.”
Idaho’s state lands director oversees nearly 300 employees in 16 offices around the state, responsible for managing more than 2.4 million acres of state endowment trust land; managing public trust lands, including waterways, lakes, beds and banks; regulating forestry and mining practices in the state; and providing fire protection and prevention on more than 6 million acres.