The Bureau of Land Management’s headquarters is moving back to Washington, D.C., from Grand Junction, Colo., the Interior Department announced Friday.
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland told employees about the decision at a meeting today, the department said.
The controversial move, made in August 2020, was not well received by BLM employees, the department noted in a news release. It “failed to deliver promised jobs across the West and drove hundreds of people out of the agency,” Interior said. “Of the 328 positions moved out of Washington, D.C., only 41 of the affected people relocated, with three moving to Grand Junction.”
The result, the department said, was “a significant loss of institutional memory and talent. The headquarters transition will be conducted with a goal of minimizing further disruption to employees and their families.”
DOI plans to locate the BLM director “and other key leadership positions in the national headquarters where they can ensure coordination with Congress, other federal agencies, and stakeholders that visit Washington, D.C.,” Interior said. “Additional senior personnel will operate from the Western headquarters, as part of the more than 95 percent of BLM employees that are already located outside of Washington, D.C.”
Grand Junction will serve as BLM’s “western headquarters,” the department said.
The decision was criticized by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and Public Lands Council, which represent ranchers.
Kaitlynn Glover, NCBA executive director of natural resources and PLC executive director, acknowledged “BLM’s operations suffered as a result of their move to Grand Junction, Colorado, and the subsequent uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
However, “Implementing another move now, when the time and attention of the BLM staff is more needed than ever, is a step western communities cannot afford. The BLM should be prioritizing time-sensitive land management improvements, not playing political football with their mailing address."
Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., whose district includes Grand Junction, called the decision “partisan” and attacked the state’s Democratic senators, John Hickenlooper and Michael Bennet, for not “standing up” for the state.
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“Bennet and Hickenlooper combined couldn’t find the courage to place a hold on just one nominee” in order to keep the headquarters in Colorado.
“While I am disappointed that the national headquarters will be in Washington, I believe establishing and growing a permanent BLM Western Headquarters in Grand Junction should be a very positive development,” Bennet said.
Wyoming Republican Sen. John Barrasso, the ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, also was critical.
“The Bureau of Land Management doesn’t need two headquarters," he said. “What the bureau needs is an honest director who doesn’t bring shame to the agency. The single headquarters of the (BLM) belongs in the West, closer to the resources it manages and the people it serves.”
Barrasso’s reference to an “honest director” refers to the current nominee for director, Tracy Stone-Manning, who was accused by Republicans of lying about her involvement in a decades-old tree-spiking incident.
Although her nomination cleared the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, the full Senate has yet to vote on Stone-Manning’s nomination.
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