Former Bureau of Land Management Bishop Field Office Manager Bernadette Lovato is returning to the Owens Valley this summer to take over leadership at Manzanar National Historic Site.
Lovato has been selected as the new superintendent for Manzanar National Historic Site and is scheduled to step into her new position there this June, replacing retired Superintendent Les Inafuku.
“Bernadette’s experience will be a great asset for the park,” said Pacific West Regional Director ChriLehnertz. “Her background managing many different types of resources and familiarity with the area make her an excellent choice to oversee the varied and complex issues at Manzanar.”
Lovato is currently the district manager for the BLM Carson City District Office, overseeing 4.8 million acres in northwestern Nevada, but her career has taken her all over the West.
Lovato began her federal career in 1990 in Santa Fe, N.M. with the National Park Service Division of Interpretation and Visitor Services. She then worked at Grand Canyon National Park and Glacier National Park in the Concessions Management program before transferring to the Bureau of Land Management in 2002. In 2007, she completed BLM’s year-long Emerging Leader Program and moved into management, serving as associate district manager for the Colorado River District, providing oversight for more than 5.1 million acres of land. In 2009, she moved to Bishop, to serve as the Field Manager for the BLM’s Bishop Field Office, before taking her present position with the BLM in Carson City.
For Lovato, this move represents two returns – a return to the Owens Valley, which she grew to love during her time here, and a return to her roots in the National Park Service.
“I left the area about a year ago. The Owens Valley just sort of has that special tug on your heart, so when this job came up I wanted to apply for it,” Lovato said, adding that she has always planned on returning to the area after retirement, and the opening at Manzanar was a happy circumstance that allowed her to accelerate those plans. “I have strong ties to the Owens Valley and am looking forward to joining the Manzanar team. I have had a life-long interest in inclusiveness and social equality, so this assignment is especially important to me,” said Lovato.
That passion for social equality was also a driving force behind Lovato’s decision to apply for the position at Manzanar. “Manzanar is a really important site because it reminds us of the mistakes we have made and it’s relevant so we don’t make those mistakes again,” she said.
While she is excited about the work Manzanar does, Lovato said she is aware of some of the issues and challenges the National Historic Site is facing, including the unpopular proposal by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to build a 1,200-acre solar facility within view of the former internment camp.
Lovato said she is aware of the Southern Inyo Solar Ranch dispute, and getting up-to-speed on developments will be one of her first priorities after taking the superintendent post this summer. “The viewshed from the park is definitely something that is important to protect,” she said.
Though Lovato is still stationed in the Carson area, she is planning to make the trip to the Owens Valley this weekend to attend the Manzanar Pilgrimage.
“I think the Owens Valley is a really special place, and the national significance of Manzanar represents that really well,” Lovato said. “I’m just really excited to be coming back to the unique community and working at Manzanar.”