BLM Move to Colorado Praised by Both Democrats and Republicans
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced on Monday that its headquarters would be moving from Washington, D.C. to Grand Junction, Colo., a decision that’s received praise from both sides of the political aisle in a time when the capitol is extremely divided.
Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), who has been a leading advocate for the move, was the first to share the news in a video release. “Today is a great day for Colorado and a great day for Grand Junction,” Gardner said. “This means that people will be able to have greater say, greater impact on public lands decisions that affect their community.”
Gardner’s video announcement was followed by supportive statements from Democrats across Colorado, including his colleague in the delegation, Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.). In addition to the nearly 80 BLM employees expected to relocate to Grand Junction, several dozen BLM jobs will move to Lakewood, located in Perlmutter’s district.
“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,” Perlmutter said. “Colorado – and Jefferson County in particular – has a strong conservation record with public lands and open space. The agency’s move out West is great news for Colorado’s economy, and I look forward to welcoming them to Lakewood.”
Gov. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), who supported moving BLM to a western state when he served in the U.S. House, hailed Grand Junction’s location.
“We are thrilled to welcome the Bureau of Land Management and their employees to the great state of Colorado. As I stated to Secretary Bernhardt many times, Grand Junction is the perfect location for the BLM because of community support, location closer to the land BLM manages, and the positive impact it will have on our western Colorado economy,” Polis said. “Hard to think of a better place to house the department responsible for overseeing our beloved public lands.”
Polis has also sought to address transportation concerns with new headquarters by stating that plans are being developed to establish direct flights between Grand Junction and Washington, D.C.
Conservation Colorado, a leading environmental advocacy group in the state, echoed Polis’ praise that the new headquarters will allow staff to be closer to the public lands under their management.
“It’s no surprise the Bureau of Land Management wants to relocate to Grand Junction. With a fantastic quality of life supported by our stunning public lands, the location is a no-brainer. We’re among the many residents in Grand Junction who are excited about this news that will benefit the local economy and bring employees closer to some of the lands they manage,” Erin Ricco said, the group’s Western Slope field organizer.
The agency manages nearly 250 million acres, 99 percent of which are west of the Mississippi River.
Last year, Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) wrote a letter with Gardner to then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke encouraging the department to select Grand Junction.
“Moving the BLM closer to the land it manages and the people it serves ensures a bright future for the agency. The BLM’s multiple-use mission aligns closely with the values of Coloradans who use public land – whether for hiking, grazing, hunting, mountain biking, or energy development,” they wrote.
The BLM’s move to Grand Junction marks a rare time when both parties have agreed on public lands. The debate has often seen sharp divisions over oil and gas production, mining, and forestry issues.
Public lands have also been front-and-center in the 2020 presidential campaign. During a campaign stop in Aurora, Colo. in April, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) unveiled a plan to prohibit new oil and gas development on federal lands, both onshore and offshore.
Meanwhile, Gov. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.), who has made climate change the sole focus of his campaign, introduced a plan last month to eliminate oil and gas production in the United States over the coming decades, including preventing new leasing on public lands.
Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), the ranking Republican on the House Natural Resources Committee, and a leading figure in the party on public lands issues joined in the bipartisan praise for the BLM move.
“Secretary Bernhardt is promoting a thoughtful, methodical approach that is a true win for the West. I’m pleased that a significant number of personnel will be coming to Utah and other Western states,” Bishop said. “The BLM personnel will be moved where they will have a greater impact on, and input by, the people who live in the regions where their influence is greatest. Not by bureaucrats from thousands of miles away.”
There has been opposition to the move, however, most notably from Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, and a sharp critic of the Trump Administration.
“Putting BLM headquarters down the road from Secretary [David] Bernhardt’s home town just makes it easier for special interests to walk in the door demanding favors without congressional oversight or accountability,” Grijalva said in a statement.
Grijalva was referencing the fact that Grand Junction is close to Bernhardt’s hometown of Rifle, Colo., though Bernhardt has only served as Interior Secretary since April.