Yesterday Steve asked after Jon “what does the FS do well?” And remember our own Colorado Senator Bennet was quoted as saying “When you combine the effects of climate change with the profound negligence of the federal government in terms of managing its national forests, these places are profound dangers to our communities and to our economy,” It seems like these are potentially finger-pointing statements (has finger-pointing replaced baseball as the national pastime?). Whose fault? The “federal government” as Bennet says, or the specific agency?
Conveniently, we have a different federal agency (BLM) with a different culture, who also manages for multiple use, so perhaps that is an apt comparison. And if I were to oversimplify (and echo former Wyo Governor Freudenthal) different stripes of admins generally push agencies to do more of some things and less of other things; while career folks negotiate these waves of preferred priorities, sometimes hunkering down and sometimes surfing. I think that there is something to be learned from comparing the two agencies, though, and fortunately many career folks have switched back and forth so there is information to be had.
One of the not so good comparisons is that (according to my sources) FLPMA requires/allows the head of BLM to be a political appointee. This makes for an entirely different career/political interface than the FS. As folks interested in good government, and what programs/policies (e.g. e-bikes, consultation, and so on) make sense to be similar for the two agencies, it’s interesting to observe how this politicization plays out.
Here’s a story in The Hill about the move back of career leaders from Grand Junction:
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will move several of its leadership positions back to Washington, D.C., after a controversial Trump-era move to send leadership to Grand Junction, Colo.
An email sent out by BLM Director Tracy Stone-Manning that was obtained by The Hill states that the agency will “consolidate” most of its directors in Washington.
Specifically, it states that the director and deputy director of operations have already returned to the district, joining the deputy director for policy and programs. It said that 8 additional leaders including “most assistant directors and deputy assistant directors” will also return to D.C.
The message also said that 30 vacant headquarters senior positions will be based in D.C.
A spokesperson for the Interior Department, which oversees the BLM, confirmed the accuracy of the email that was obtained by The Hill, which specified the fate of the 11 leadership positions and 30 vacancies.
Spokesperson Melissa Schwartz also confirmed that a total of about 100 positions including 60 existing positions and the aforementioned 41 jobs will be based in D.C.
Thirty-six jobs will stay in Grand Junction, and are expected to be complimented by more yet-to-be posted jobs that were referenced in Stone-Manning’s email.
In 2019, the Trump administration announced that the Bureau of Land Management would move its headquarters from Washington D.C., to Grand Junction.
It argued that the move, which was completed last year, would put officials closer to the lands that they managed.
But critics saw it as an attempt to drive out career officials who may not have wanted to move west.
The Biden administration announced in September that it would restore its D.C. headquarters, but also maintain the Colorado office as its “Western headquarters.”
The Stone-Manning email that was obtained by The Hill states that two positions, the national conservation lands and community partnerships assistant director and deputy assistant director, will “anchor” the Colorado office.
She wrote that the office will “anticipate” posting additional positions that “reflect that office’s leadership role in BLM’s outdoor recreation, conservation, clean energy, and scientific missions, as well as outreach and Tribal consultation.”
Her message said that the fate of some positions remains up in the air.
My contacts in the Retiree Network say that replacing BLM SES folks (senior executives) with those with favored political leanings is actually SOP for new color-changing administrations, and also it’s happening as we speak. Also, I didn’t realize that BLM had a scientific mission.. at one point I thought that the USGS had taken over the research functions of all the Interior agencies .. but perhaps they grew back organically.
Anyone who knows more about any of this, please add.