BLM Relocation To West Appears Closer To Reality
A decision to relocate the headquarters for the Bureau of Land Management to Grand Junction, Colo. may be inching closer, according to Interior Department leadership.
“This is real,” said Deputy Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, the Interior Department’s second in command.
Bernhardt shared the news remotely from the White House to leaders on Colorado’s Western Slope, according to the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel.
U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R) and U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton (R), both of whom have supported the possible relocation of BLM headquarters to a Western state via legislation introduced last year, applauded the news
“Congressman Tipton was happy to hear Interior Deputy Secretary Bernhardt confirm DOI’s plans to relocate BLM headquarters west, especially since most of the land the BLM manages is in the West,” Tipton spokeswoman Kelsey Mix told NGI’s Shale Daily. “Congressman Tipton has long believed that moving BLM headquarters west would ensure that land management decisions are made by those who know the land best.”
Mix added that such a move would mean more jobs and an economic boost for the West.
Gardner said he was “thrilled” upon hearing the news, and looked forward to working with the Interior Deparment on the move.
“Ninety-nine percent of the nearly 250 million acres of land managed by BLM is west of the Mississippi River, and having the decision-makers present in the communities they impact will lead to better results,” Gardner said.
After introducing their bills last year, bipartisan support from other members of Colorado’s Congressional delegation poured in, with officials signaling their support or signing on to the bills. Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D) signed onto Tipton’s House bill, along with the remaining GOP House members, Rep. Ken Buck, Rep. Doug Lamborn, and Rep. Mike Coffman.
By December, Rep. Jared Polis (D) had endorsed the move as well. U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, also a Democrat, who had previously indicated he was supportive of a BLM relocation to the West, gave the potential move his full-throated backing in a letter he co-signed with Gardner last month, inviting Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to visit Grand Junction and the state’s Western Slope.
“We support moving the BLM to the West, and believe Grand Junction and Colorado’s West Slope have much to offer the Department of the Interior (DOI),” the senators wrote to Zinke.
“We believe Grand Junction is the ideal location for the BLM headquarters. Grand Junction is centrally located and offers easy access to a major interstate and an expanding airport, and has existing federal facilities and infrastructure,” Gardner and Bennet wrote.
Their letter affirmed that the City of Grand Junction, in their opinion, fulfilled at least two key factors Zinke had indicated were important for the agency’s consideration—reasonable cost-of-living and outstanding quality of life—at a hearing before the House Natural Resources Committee while discussing Interior’s FY 2019 budget.
Gardner and Tipton have supported Grand Junction’s candidacy, but their bills listed 12 Western states as part of the potential headquarters relocation: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.
The BLM headquarters move is part of the overall agency reorganization being pushed by Zinke.
This week, Zinke said he was “looking hard” at the BLM move, as well as the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR). In addition to BLM, BOR and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) were mentioned last July as part of Zinke’s agency shuffling.
Zinke did not add specifics, and a Western Wire call to a department spokesman was not immediately returned.
As Western Wire reported last week, another top Interior official, Joe Balash, Assistant Secretary for Land Minerals Management, said at the National Western Mining Association conference in Denver, Colo. that the interest in “HQ2” going to Grand Junction remained, though he indicated that the initial move may be more modest, beginning with approximately 50 personnel.
Support within the state from elected officials, including county commissioners, is strong, according to the Sentinel.
According to E&E News, Interior is still assessing the logistics of such a move, including “consequences, how many people have we got to move, where are they going to move.”
Zinke said there was “no doubt” that Congressional support, possibly including legislation or approval, may be necessary before the decision is fully confirmed.
Zinke told a House Appropriations subcommittee this week that state directors will remain at BLM “because those are important relationships.” Interior’s reorganization plan for other departments, such as FWS, or Bureau of Indian Affairs, along watershed boundaries instead of states is still being considered.