Ben Blom, Manager of the US Bureau of Land Management’s Headwaters Forest Reserve, gave little early indication that he was destined for a career in forest preservation.
“I was an urban kid,” says Blom. “I grew up in Boston, and I got into the kind of trouble that city boys get into. But then I went into an Outward Bound program when I was in 9th grade. That changed everything for me.”
Specifically, it inculcated a deep love of the outdoors. Blom ultimately took up hiking, fishing, mountain biking and snowshoeing. After graduating from high school, he attended Colgate University, where he pursued a pre-med track. But it somehow didn’t seem the right fit. After graduation, he worked as a wildlife surveyor for the Mendocino Redwood Company.
“We were out hooting for spotted owls and doing small mammal and raptor surveys,” recalls Blom. “It was a lot of fun, and I fell in love with the North Coast landscape. Somehow, I knew I had to return.”
The route back to the redwood forest took him through the Yale School of Forestry, where he obtained his Master’s degree and met Richard Campbell, then the school’s Forest Manager, currently the Save the Redwoods League’s Conservation Science Manager.
“Richard and I had a great deal in common, including a passion for forests and forest ecosystems,” Blom says. “I learned a lot from him.”
After completing his master’s, Blom was accepted into a Bureau of Land Management fellowship, where he spent three years in Colorado developing a management plan for the Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area.
“I learned the nuts and bolts of resource management, including conflict resolution,” says Blom. “A variety of stakeholders were involved with the Dominguez-Escalante – ranchers, mountain bikers, ATV enthusiasts, climbers. Finding solutions acceptable to everyone was a challenge, but it was also extremely gratifying.”
After his stint in Colorado, Blom was offered the Headwaters job, which he accepted without hesitation.
“For me, Headwaters is a source of personal inspiration as well as a job,” Blom observes. “People from all walks of life, from all political perspectives, have been able to find common ground, a shared sense of purpose here. You see it especially in our road decommissioning project. It’s given me a lot of hope—not just for the redwood forest, but for humanity.”