The Bureau of Land Management, which controls 245 million acres of federal lands, may be moving its headquarters from Washington, DC, to Grand Junction, Colorado, one of the state’s US senators said Monday.
Sen. Cory Gardner said the move “will bring the bureau’s decision makers closer to the people they serve and the public lands they manage.”
A spokeswoman who answered the phone at the Bureau of Land Management’s press office said Grand Junction was the bureau’s selection. But moving required a congressional review and the completion of “paperwork,” she told CNN. The spokeswoman declined twice to provide her name.
“That’s the area they picked, but as far as saying and doing, I’m not sure,” she said.
Asked about the senator’s announcement, she said, “I guess so,” and said her office was learning of the announcement as she was.
The bureau, part of the Interior Department, manages vast expanses of publicly owned land and its natural resources primarily in the western United States. The land is managed for multiple uses, including oil and gas development, mineral mining and recreation.
The vast majority of the bureau’s employees are assigned to a state or region and work out of field offices.
A small portion of its employees work in DC where broad policy and budgeting decisions are made.
The Public Lands Foundation, an association of mostly retired BLM employees, opposes relocating the headquarters staff. The group believes the move would diminish the bureau’s influence in the development of budgets and policies, said board member George Stone, who said he retired after 33 years with the Interior Department including a decade at BLM.
“I don’t see how it will make it more efficient or effective,” Stone said. “You’ve got to be present to win, and if you’re not there, you’re out West, and you’re not represented, your agency will not benefit.”
The Trump administration has been looking to move federal offices out of the DC area. The Agriculture Department has announced controversial plans to relocate hundreds of research employees to the Kansas City area. The union representing its employees say a large number plan to quit rather than make the move.
The Trump administration began a search to relocate the bureau under former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. His successor, Secretary David Bernhardt, has indicated the move remained on the table. Local news reports documented visits to several cities from Interior Department officials.
The statement from Gardner’s office said the GOP senator was “the chief architect of the plan to move the Bureau of Land Management’s headquarters West.”
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis endorsed the move on Twitter.
”We are thrilled to welcome the Bureau of Land Management & their employees to the great state of Colorado. As I stated to Secretary Bernhardt many times, Grand Junction is the perfect location for the BLM because of community support, location closer to the land BLM manages and the positive impact it will have on our western Colorado economy. Hard to think of a better place to house the department responsible for overseeing our beloved public lands!” the Colorado Democrat tweeted.