Top Colorado Democrat Wants to Keep “Strong BLM Presence in Colorado”
With questions beginning to swirl around the prospect of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) headquarters moving back to Washington D.C. from Grand Junction, Colorado, a senior Democrat and long-standing supporter of the relocation of the headquarters to Colorado told Western Wire he wants to see a robust presence remain in the state.
“I continue to support a strong BLM presence in Colorado which aligns with the agency’s mission and allows agency officials to be closer to the land and minerals they oversee,” Colorado Democrat Rep. Ed Perlmutter told Western Wire, while reiterating his commitment to working with the incoming administration on western issues.
“I look forward to working with the Biden Administration and the next Congress to ensure BLM has the resources and workforce they need to continue to protect Colorado and the West’s public lands and grow our outdoor recreation economy.”
Perlmutter is one of numerous western lawmakers who pushed for BLM to be closer to the land and minerals it oversees. Along with fellow Colorado Democrats Sen. Michael Bennet, then-Governor John Hickenlooper, and then-Rep. Jared Polis, Perlmutter supported legislation in 2017 to move the agency out of Washington, D.C.
This support potentially puts them at odds with the incoming administration. Bennet’s and Polis’s offices did not respond to a request for comment about their support for the Grand Junction headquarters.
Locally, the Grand Junction headquarters has the support of the area Chamber of Commerce, which would like to see BLM stay close to the field offices and public lands it oversees but has been given little information about the future of the Colorado office.
“I have no idea what the Biden administration is going to propose to do for the BLM headquarters,” Diane Schwenke, president and CEO of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce told the Grand Junction Sentinel.
The move has encountered resistance from BLM staff, some of whom left the agency last year rather than move to Colorado. The bureau lost nearly 70 percent of its Washington-based staff under the Trump administration.
Meanwhile environmentalists pressuring BLM to adopt a more climate-focused public lands policy see returning the headquarters to DC as a key first step. Among the recommendations included in a series of transition memos released by the Climate 21 Project, one of several green groups offering advice to the Biden team, was a call to relocate BLM leadership to DC within 100 days, with the remainder of the headquarters staff following “as quickly as possible.”
Achieving this timeline is ambitious. One hurdle would be office space. The BLM opted not to renew the lease on its old Washington office space.
“The difficulty of moving people and loss of the bulk of BLM’s Washington office space will make it challenging, however, to try to move all of the former Washington staff positions back,” the memo states. “Given limited resources and numerous priorities, fully re-establishing the Washington office may not be a near term priority for a new administration.”
Space for BLM staff would need to be found in existing Department of the Interior offices if BLM returns to the capital. Meanwhile, the BLM signed a five-year lease in Grand Junction in 2019.