Brian Steed, a Familiar Face at USU, Will Oversee Utah's Natural Resources

Brian Steed, a Logan native and an individual familiar to Utah State University’s Political Science Department as an undergrad, grad student and instructor, has been named to the Utah Department of Natural Resources.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert made the announcement Monday, April 29. The new position will bring Steed back to Utah from Washington, D.C., where he has served as the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s deputy director for policy and programs since October 2017.

Damon Cann, head of the Political Science Department in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, was delighted to hear the announcement, explaining that while at USU, Steed was known for his thoughtful mentorship and connection with students. Steed is an attorney and expert on environmental law and policy, said Cann, “but he has the soul of a teacher.” 

Steed received his bachelor’s degree in Political Science in 1997, staying on to earn a master’s degree, also in Political Science, in 1999. He returned to USU’s Political Science in 2009 to teach Political Science courses until 2011. His other professional experience at USU was as a grant writer for the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business.

Steed directed the 2012 campaign that won Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) his inaugural term in Congress. After Stewart’s victory, he asked Steed to travel to Washington, D.C. to be his chief of staff. In 2017, Steed was pegged by President Trump to be deputy director of the BLM, effectively serving as acting director because a permanent leader has not been approved by Congress.

During Steed’s time in Rep. Stewart’s office, he welcomed several interns from CHaSS. Afterwards, Cann said, he’d seek the students’ reactions. “They’d say, ‘You can tell he’s a professor. He’ll sit down and draw diagrams and give you instruction.’” In his role there, said Cann, “he was still very much a teacher and mentor to students. I expect that’ll be something he continues in the Department of Natural Resources.”

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Steed showed interest in the intersection of politics and the environment even as an undergraduate, said Cann. As a CHaSS intern himself, Steed completed an internship in the office of then Utah Sen. Bob Bennett in 1995, remembers Cann. 

Steed’s master’s thesis at USU focused on environmental policy in Costa Rica. He earned his J.D. from the University of Utah and then sought a doctorate in Public Policy at Indiana University where, says Cann, “environmental issues are central to the way they train students.”

Steed’s mentor there was the renowned political scientist Elinor Ostrom, who won the 2009 Nobel Prize in Economics for her work on common resource management. He was the final graduate student she mentored prior to her death in 2012, said Cann.

Interestingly, the DNR is an important manager of common resources with its oversight over Utah state parts, animal resources including hunting and fishing permits, the state’s water resources, and coal and oil development. 

Steed acknowledged this in a public statement. “Without question, Utah has some of the nation’s most incredible natural resources,” he said. “I look forward to working with the talented DNR staff in continuing to wisely steward Utah’s land, wildlife, and water.”

Steed appointment must be confirmed by the Utah Senate. He is scheduled to assume duties June 1. His wife, Leslie Steed, earned a bachelor’s in biological science (composite teaching) from USU.

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