Date: July 28, 2008
Brian Cottam, Associate Director
Southern Utah University Office of Regional Services
ST. GEORGE — Since retiring earlier this year after 33 years’ service with the Bureau of Land Management, Santa Clara’s Jim Crisp has served Southern Utah University Regional Services on a volunteer basis as an adviser for special projects in southwest Utah.
As such, Crisp is heavily involved in projects that make use of his considerable background in land-use planning, resource management and community development.
In addition, Crisp acts as Regional Services’ liaison in affiliations related to SUU’s new Outdoor Initiative, created in 2007 to highlight and integrate the outdoors — education, recreation, partnerships and facilities — into all facets of the university.
“I try to stay busy giving back to the community,” Crisp said. “When the opportunity came to use my background to help SUU Regional Services in its projects, it was a natural for me. It’s what I love to do.”
Crisp is a self-described “citizen volunteer.”
He is the volunteer coordinator for Washington County’s Red Cliffs Desert Reserve; he serves as a commissioner for the Santa Clara City Land-Use Authority; he oversees Eagle Scout projects for the Boy Scouts’ Snow Canyon District; he assists with genealogy research and name-extraction for the LDS Church; and he’s on the executive committee of Vision Dixie, a public-private planning cooperative aimed at preserving the quality of life in Southern Utah.
Given his land-use planning and management background, Crisp is uniquely qualified to represent SUU in such diverse ventures as the Zion Canyon Corridor Planning Committee and the consortium coordinating the Zion National Park centennial celebration.
As a geology student at Brown University, Crisp spent his summers as a member of the Zion National Park staff during the late 1960s.
“For some reason, I was motivated to come west,” he recalled. “I knew nothing about Southern Utah when I got here, but I was immediately struck with the country and the people. I fell in love with the land, the people, the local culture, and I embraced them all as my own.”
After graduating from Brown, Crisp flew C-130 aircraft for the U.S. Air Force as a rescue pilot in the Pacific. He left the Air Force in 1975 and was hired by the BLM.
His 33-year career included assignments in Utah, Arizona, Colorado, and Washington D.C. From 1995 until his retirement in March, Crisp served as manager of the BLM’s St. George field office, where he directed management of 635,000 acres of public lands in Washington County.
In that capacity, Crisp was responsible for pretty much everything BLM does: venues planning, land-use planning, environmental coordination, community development, threatened-species protection and outdoor recreation.
“Southern Utah is a wonderful place to live; I owe it to the community to give everything I have to maintain the quality of life and the quality of the community at large,” he said.
As part of his work with the BLM, Crisp helped establish the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve, negotiating the thin line between the fastest-growing community in the United States and protection of the threatened desert tortoise. He remains involved as volunteer director, one of his many volunteer ventures.
“I have a diverse background and experience that I bring to these activities,” he said. “It took me 30 years to get back here to Southern Utah, and now it’s pay-back time. I would feel very negligent and ungrateful if I didn’t do what I’m doing.”
On Regional Services’ behalf, Crisp is coordinating the university’s participation in Zion National Park’s centennial celebration, scheduled for July 31, 2009.
In conjunction with the celebration, SUU’s Braithwaite Fine Arts Gallery will exhibit historical photos and student and community fine art depicting Zion National Park. Crisp is working with gallery director Reece Summers to coordinate the exhibit.
Meanwhile, Crisp is a working with the Zion Canyon Corridor Planning Committee — a group of public officials, civil servants and civic-minded volunteers developing a long-range vision for state Route 9 along the 22-mile stretch from Hurricane to Springdale, heading into Zion National Park.
Four municipalities (La Verkin, Virgin, Rockville and Springdale) are cooperating with the Utah Department of Transportation and three land-management agencies (BLM, the National Park Service, and Utah Trust Lands) to reach “a common vision that will maintain the wonderful landscape along Scenic Highway 9,” Crisp said.
Crisp hooked up with Regional Services as a result of his BLM affiliation with the Southern Utah Planning Authorities Council.
“I had been a SUPAC member for years, and at the meeting where I announced my retirement, (SUU Regional Services Director) Wes Curtis briefed the council on SUU’s new Outdoor Initiative,” he said. “Wes approached me after the meeting and asked me to get involved. I was glad to do it; I was already thinking of approaching him and offering my services.”
But doesn’t retirement mean slowing down and taking it is easy? Evidently not, Crisp says.
“It’s been an interesting process,” he said. “My wife (Neidra) and I studied other people who had retired and looked at what worked and what didn’t.
“We learned that you can’t retire from anything; you have to retire to something,” he said. “Rocking chairs and fishing holes get old after a while. We don’t have wander lust; this is home and we love it. This is the right place to do what we can to give back to the community.”
CUTLINE: Jim Crisp poses in Zion National Park with Kolob Canyons in the background. As a geology student at Brown University, Crisp spent his summers as a member of the Zion National Park staff during the late 1960s. Today, after a distinguished 33-year career with the BLM, Crisp uses his background in land-use planning, resource management and community development to serve as an SUU Regional Services volunteer adviser for special projects in southwest Utah.