The government agency in charge of managing the millions of acres of federal land across the American west will be headquartered in Grand Junction, while Lakewood will see a surge in staff.
The move by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), from its current headquarters in Washington D.C., was announced by Colorado Sen. Corey Gardner in a video he released on July 15.
"Today is a great day for Colorado and for Grand Junction," Gardner said. "This means that people will have a greater say, a greater impact on public lands cecisions that have an impact on their community."
Gardner had been vocal of his support for moving BLM's headquarters west for several years. In 2017, Gardner and Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Colorado) introduced bills in the U.S. Senate and House, to have the Department of the Interior begin planning for such a move.
Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colorado) signed on in support of the 2017 bill. On July 16 he released a statement which said the agency's move out west was great news for the state's economy.
“Relocating BLM headquarters to Colorado is a natural fit with the agency’s mission and allows agency officials to be closer to the land and minerals they oversee. Colorado – and Jefferson County in particular – has a strong conservation record with public lands and open space," Perlmutter said. "I look forward to welcoming them to Lakewood.”
According to a letter from the Department of the Interior to the Congress, some 60 BLM employees will remain in Washington D.C., while 222 other current D.C. employee positions will be reassigned to locations across the west, including the new Grand Junction headquarters.
The agency reorganization letter indicates as many as 58 new positions could be headed to Colorado's state office, which is located in Lakewood.
“Welcome to Lakewood,” said Lakewood Mayor Adam Paul in a statement following the news. “Lakewood has a rich history of working with the U.S. Department of Interior and Bureau of Land Management and we are pleased that they will be entrusting us with more of their talented employees.”
The Jefferson County Board of County Commissioners and the Jefferson County Economic Development Corporation also praised the news.
“The transition of the headquarters to Colorado is an excellent example of the pragmatic approach the Bureau of Land Management is taking to manage its resources,” said Jefferson County Commissioner Libby Szabo. “It just makes sense to have the employees near the lands they are managing.”
The bureau, part of the Interior Department, oversees nearly 388,000 square miles of public land, and 99% is in 12 Western states. The lands are rich in oil, gas, coal and grazing for livestock, as well as habitat for wildlife, hunting ranges, fishing streams and hiking trails.
The bureau is in the vanguard of President Donald Trump's campaign to step up fossil fuel production on public land, and it has often been in the crosshairs of Democrats and conservationists who say the administration is more interested in mining and drilling than in protecting the environment.
Rep. Raul M. Grijalva, D-Arizona, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, attacked the headquarters move and noted that Grand Junction is not far from Interior Secretary David Bernhardt's hometown of Rifle, Colorado.
“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,” Grijalva said. “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 bureau has 9,000 employees, most of them scattered among 140 state, district or field offices.
Key details of the move were unknown, including how much it would cost, how many employees would remain in Washington and, most importantly, whether the move would have a significant impact on land management decisions or would be more a token of the administration's plan to decentralize the bureau.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, welcomed the change but reminded the Trump administration that he and other Democrats want the president to do more to protect the environment and recreational access on public lands.
“Hard to think of a better place to house the department responsible for overseeing our beloved public lands,” he said in a written statement.
Interior Department officials have said they also considered Denver; Salt Lake City; Albuquerque, New Mexico; and Boise, Idaho, for the new headquarters.
— The AP contributed to this report
🚨🚨🚨 The Bureau of Land Management is relocating their HQ to Grand Junction. This is great news for CO because now the decision-makers will be present in the communities their decisions impact. I'm proud to have played a leading role in this effort over the past three years. pic.twitter.com/kBzYo6QKxl— Cory Gardner (@CoryGardner) July 16, 2019
🚨🚨🚨 The Bureau of Land Management is relocating their HQ to Grand Junction. This is great news for CO because now the decision-makers will be present in the communities their decisions impact. I'm proud to have played a leading role in this effort over the past three years. pic.twitter.com/kBzYo6QKxl
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