80% of D.C. staffers could leave BLM

That’s the title of a Greenwire article today ($).

As many as 80% of the 159 BLM staffers in D.C. who are being moved to the new headquarters in Grand Junction, Colo., or to other state offices from Alaska to Arizona, plan to reject the reassignment orders and either retire or find another job at the Interior Department or other agency in Washington, the sources told E&E News.

BLM handed out formal relocation notices to almost all of the 159 employees on Nov. 12, giving them 30 days to decide whether to move to the bureau’s new headquarters and other state offices (Greenwire, Nov. 13).

That means the 30-day deadline for most ends today.

12 thoughts on “80% of D.C. staffers could leave BLM”

  1. In other employment news the house today voted to legalize 325,000 workers who are currently working here illegally. I feel for the staffers but they’ll be able to easily find another good paying job, most of the millions of Americans who have been impoverished by govt policy haven’t fared anywhere near as well.

  2. Out of curiosity (Greenwire is behind a paywall for me, so I can’t find an answer there), how many BLM employees work in Washington, D.C.? One hundred fifty-nine doesn’t sound like that many people for an organization with the BLM’s wide-ranging responsibilities. Are most BLM employees staying in Washington; or will they be asked to move to Colorado later; or do most BLM employees already work elsewhere? In other words, do the 159 represent most of the complement of BLM employees in Washington?

    • “Are most BLM employees staying in Washington; or will they be asked to move to Colorado later; or do most BLM employees already work elsewhere? In other words, do the 159 represent most of the complement of BLM employees in Washington?”

      Good questions.


      No, most BLM employees are not staying in Washington.

      The vast, vast majority of BLM’s 10,000+ employees already work elsewhere…and the vast, vast majority of those already work and live in various communities (including many rural communities) in Western U.S.

      Yes, the 159 represents most of the complement of BLM employees in Washington.

      Bonus: The Bureau of Land Management’s relocated DC employees are moving into a Grand Junction, Colo. building that also houses several companies that the federal bureau regulates, including a Chevron office and the offices of a few other oil and gas companies. See: https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/462463-federal-land-agencys-new-headquarters-to-share-building-with-oil-and

      • Thanks. Then it would seem to be undesirable tokenism or symbolism to force those few Washington employees to move. I’d much rather live in Grand Junction than in Washington, D.C. But the people declining to move may feel tied down by spouses’ jobs and similar constraints. Or they may prefer the capital over Colorado’s western slope.

    • Lourenço, I’ve been tracking this a bit and the figures haven’t stayed static in the different articles I’ve seen. I actually came to the conclusion that it wasn’t worth trying to figure out what is true. Part of that is due to the full court press against the Trump Interior and oil and gas- that’s pretty much the tack that most sources take (except not always CoPo because our elected officials of both parties are pro)

      But maybe they have finally settled out. I looked on the BLM site and they said
      “About 60 positions from programs with inherently DC-based responsibilities, like legislative, regulatory and public affairs, budget, and Freedom of Information Act compliance, as well as the Deputy Director for Policy and Programs will stay in the DC area.

      As I’ve said before, I worked in DC for 14 years in a variety of posts in the FS and USDA, including trying to fill positions from NEPA to R&D. My experience was that many of the best people wouldn’t move to DC for family, economic, or lifestyle reasons. But the downside was that these otherwise excellent people who remained never really “got” an important part of bureaucratic life. And yet.. there were those who were extremely talented politically and who had never moved to DC – perhaps had been on a detail.

      Some of our folks would even move without their families to DC when duty called. And similarly, once you get ensconced in DC with kids in schools and jobs it’s hard to leave. But it’s really hard to make the move there for many FS folks because, let’s face it, most of us would rather live in Glenwood Springs than near the Glenmont Metro Station. And the cost of housing, and traffic, and crowding, and (some) schools. Plus being so far away from the western landscapes that drew us to this life in the first place.

      And I thought this article was interesting.. though the argument that it will save money is “false”, when moved employees get different locality pay (because they’re in a different locality) it’s characterized as a “pay cut.” Only the commenters picked up on that in this story.

      • Thanks, Sharon. As usual, you bring a perspective to these discussions that’s both valuable and rare. Few people are both thoroughly immersed in the bureaucratic cultures of the headquarters of federal land management agencies and keenly interested in their on-the-ground effects, mostly in the west.

        • I’m not saying I agree with the Administration doing it. I just think it’s not the end of the world and incompetent bazoos are going to fill all the jobs leading to the destruction of the agency as we know it.

          I also think that if the FS proposed “getting people out of DC who don’t need to be in DC” Tony, Jim and I who have all worked in DC, would probably have different ideas of who should go and why. I also agree with others that a longer more open process with employees would be better. The risk though, is that they might never get it done, unless they had started sooner. But they might have the same resistance anyway. That’s what DC politicals do if they’re skillful. But just like the b environmental groups we’re discussing on another thread, the effort is not really about moving people- it’s political and so is the response. So the point is not to actually do anything (move people, improve a project), but to line up forces for aggrandizing more power.

  3. For your consideration, a piece written by Bob Abbey, who served as director of the Bureau of Land Management from 2009 to 2012 and Jim Caswell, who served as the director of the BLM from 2007 to 2009. In other words, they served under both recent Republicans and Democratic administration’s.

    The Stealth Plan to Erode Public Control of Public Lands: Why a proposal to move some “bureaucrats” out of Washington is actually a grave threat to the Bureau of Land Management.

    Here are some snips:

    We are former directors of the BLM, from Republican and Democratic administrations, and we are united in our concern about the future of our public lands — specifically, a below-the-radar effort by political appointees in the Department of the Interior to functionally dismantle the organization.

    These officials have launched a reorganization plan to relocate BLM’s headquarters from Washington to several Western states, where most of the lands administered by the bureau are. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt asserts that decisions about public lands in Western states need to be made closer to the people who are affected by them.

    We agree with that logic and so have other directors; that’s the reason 97 percent of BLM personnel already work in the West. Most of BLM’s decisions are already grounded in local collaborations with public participation, a critical part of each step.

    So why is Bernhardt relocating much of the remaining 3 percent of BLM? Our view is that the plan is a poorly disguised attempt to destroy the agency from the inside. BLM state directors and field managers in the West already have the authority to make land-use, leasing and permitting decisions and facilitate coordination with state, tribal and local governments. The 3 percent in Washington focuses on policy, oversight and coordination at the national level with other federal agencies, Congress and national public interest groups. This is work that must be done in Washington to be effective.

    BLM’s Washington-based employees have been given a stark choice: relocate within a short period of time or be terminated. The plan was formulated with little or no input from the public, tribal officials or employees, nor was it subjected to an impartial fiscal analysis. With few senior career employees in the BLM’s headquarters office, powerful political interests will find it easier to place a heavy thumb on the scale in favor of special interest groups and their lobbyists and against the greater public good.

    • Could well be true. I predict that President Trump will be reelected in 2020, and if he is, people will have to figure out ways to deal with things like this between now and January of 2025. Maybe the Democrats can insert a rider into a must-pass appropriations bill forbidding any money being spent to relocate the BLM employees.

  4. Actually 87%.

    “A total of 287 BLM employees either retired or found other jobs, according to Interior communications director Melissa Schwartz, while 41 people moved to the new office in Colorado. Asked for comment on how the shift affected the bureau’s operations, Schwartz declined to comment. But several experts, including former high-ranking Interior officials, said the shake-up has deprived the agency of needed expertise and disrupted its operations.”

    Joe Tague, a 42-year BLM employee who retired as chief of its division of forest, rangeland, riparian and plant conservation a year ago, said in a phone interview that at least half of his division’s staff left rather than move. He retired “in part” because of the reorganization. Tague, a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, said he was particularly worried about the agency’s diversity in the wake of the exodus because a disproportionately large number of Black employees had left. He added that some divisions, such as the one that oversees land-use plans, were hit particularly hard. “I think it’s going to take a long time to regain what the Washington office does,” he said.”



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