BLM HQ to Grand Junction, Colo.

The political fight has begun over the Interior Department’s proposal to relocate the Bureau of Land Management’s headquarters to Grand Junction, Colo.

I makes sense in some ways to put BLM’s HQ in the middle of most of the land it manages, but it will be wrenching for many employees. OTOH, maybe some are happy to leave D.C.

8 thoughts on “BLM HQ to Grand Junction, Colo.”

  1. The thing is it doesn’t really make sense. BLM was marginalized simply by moving the WO down to the navy yard ten years ago, further away from Main Interior and further away from political power. They’ll be even more of a DC afterthought if this happens.

  2. Maybe the FS is different, but it has historically tended to distance itself from the rest of USDA and most would think that that mostly works out well. Clearing rules and all that, we went to visit regulatory agencies sometimes- not very often- but as the E&E news article points out, many BLMers are already in Denver. I only remember physically visiting CEQ and DOJ at the tail end of rulemaking, and for that, it would have been less costly to live in a lower cost area and travel.

    From the E&E News article (those folks have a pretty serious firewall)

    “Noting that Bernhardt is a native of Rifle, Colo., near Grand Junction, Grijalva added: “Putting BLM headquarters down the road from Secretary Bernhardt’s hometown just makes it easier for special interests to walk in the door demanding favors without congressional oversight or accountability. The BLM officials based in Washington are here to work directly with Congress and their federal colleagues, and that function is going to take a permanent hit if this move goes forward. The agency will lose a lot of good people because of this move, and I suspect that’s the administration’s real goal here.”

    Sources told E&E News that some senior staffers moving to Colorado as part of the relocation will be required to do so by Oct. 1, the start of the fiscal 2020 budget year.

    The relocation is part of an Interior effort of more than two years to reorganize the vast agency, including evaluating the potential to move BLM’s headquarters to a city out West. The headquarters relocation is a key component of the Interior reorganization plan first proposed by then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

    Now Bernhardt is expected to announce moving BLM’s headquarters to Colorado, sources said, after months of analyzing potential relocation sites like Ogden, Utah, and Albuquerque, N.M.

    Grand Junction, about 280 miles west of Denver, has lobbied BLM to move to the state’s Western Slope. The Grand Junction Economic Partnership has even established a website — Welcome Home BLM — to convince Bernhardt to relocate BLM’s headquarters there.

    BLM will still maintain a large presence in Denver, where there are already thousands of federal employees stationed at the Denver Federal Center.”

    IMHO, Grijalva is being a little silly here (or had never worked in a federal agency). Special interests have no trouble traveling to DC (they probably write it off as a business expense), and “congressional oversight” isn’t usually involved in meetings, but rather in actions following the meetings. Really, for how many “special interests” is Grand Junction all that convenient?
    This is one of those things that sounds plausible, but knowledge of the mechanics would suggest that he is blowing partisan smoke.

    And as I’ve said before, in my 14 years of hiring folks to DC, I found it hard to find people who wanted to go there. For the same jobs and grade level, most of the best people would have taken a virtual job in a heartbeat. Should everyone be virtual? Is that really a partisan question?

    Here’s the Center for Western Priorities “The Bureau of Land Management will seek to move its headquarters to Grand Junction, Colorado, according to multiple news reports. According to the Washington Post, the plan would relocate roughly 70 positions, less than 1 percent of the agency’s workforce, to western Colorado. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt is expected to announce the effort later today.

    The BLM workforce is already overwhelmingly decentralized, with roughly 95 percent of its staff working outside of Washington, DC., and the agency has dozens of offices throughout the West. Critics worry the move could reduce the BLM’s sway within the Interior Department and on Capitol Hill. “I don’t see how it will make it more efficient or effective. 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,” said George Stone, a board member of the Public Lands Foundation, an association of mostly BLM retirees.”

    This is interesting as it’s only talking about 70 positions. I wonder what the positions actually entail? How many people will be left in DC. What people exactly need to be “present to win.”?

    And of course, “The proposal is subject to Congressional review, and in recent legislation, lawmakers warned that any reorganization, “especially those of significant national or regional importance,” would require approval by appropriators.”

    The other thing I think is interesting is that the article quoted an association of retirees. I don’t think I’ve ever seen NAFSR quoted. I wonder if they are asked or perhaps their answers don’t fit the narrative.

    • Greenwire reports that “BLM move could leave skeleton crew in D.C.”

      The vast majority of the 500 or so Bureau of Land Management employees in Washington, D.C., will be transferred out West, with 61 officials left in the nation’s capital if the Interior Department follows through on plans to relocate BLM’s headquarters to Grand Junction, Colo., according to sources briefed on the matter.

      An estimated 27 of the senior-most BLM officials — including the bureau director, both deputy directors and the seven assistant directors of programs that cover everything from onshore energy development to annual budget planning — will be transferred to Grand Junction, making it the bureau’s new headquarters, according to sources who asked not to be identified.

  3. The CWP write up had a link to a WaPo story that says 300. ???

    Also note, so far the only stories that point out that Senator Bennet also supports the move are from Colorado. Here’s his statement from last year:
    “Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet issued the following statement after Interior Department Senior Advisor Susan Combs confirmed in a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) headquarters would move West, and that the Department is conducting an analysis to select the new location.

    “It is good to hear the Department of the Interior is upholding its commitment to move the BLM headquarters West,” Bennet said. “We look forward to working closely with the Department as it conducts its evaluation, and we re-extend our invitation to Secretary Zinke to visit Colorado to see for himself why there is no better home for the BLM headquarters. We must ensure this move is more than symbolic and provides the resources necessary to manage our public lands and improve agency decision making.”

    Bennet has supported moving the BLM Headquarters West since August 2017. In March 2018, Bennet sent a letter to Secretary Zinke, encouraging him to visit Colorado and select it as home of the new BLM headquarters.” I don’t know if he has changed his mind since last year.

    • Hmm… an article that quotes political appointees from a D administration saying R’s have a long standing evil plot and intentions, which should worry us despite the fact that Congress would have to agree and have shown no inclination to do so. Not exactly human bites dog.

      • How about an article that quotes career Civil Service employees saying this administration has a longstanding evil intentions?
        Quoting …

        Bibles, Millenbach and others who agreed to talk to E&E News said they believe the end game is to weaken BLM, make it ineffective and eventually convince lawmakers and the public that it’s no longer needed.

        “They’ve both worked for years on the side of getting rid of public lands, and the position that we don’t need BLM because there shouldn’t be any federal lands to begin with,” said BLM-retiree Elaine Zielinski, referring to Pendley and Budd-Falen.

        “I truly do believe they are just trying to make the BLM ineffective, then they can say we have the solution for that,” added Zielinski, who retired in 2009 after more than 30 years at the bureau, including a six-year run as director of BLM’s Arizona State Office.

  4. Or from another: “It’s more apparent than ever to me what the goal is for this proposal, and it’s not to make things more efficient and to get things on the ground,” said Steve Ellis, who served 38 years with BLM before resigning from its highest level career position in 2016. “Staff is being scattered so they can’t work together efficiently and effectively.”

    And this has to do with NEPA. One can easily imagine less effective NEPA = losing more court cases.


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