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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.

As oil prices crashed to stunning lows earlier this year, the Interior Department offered temporary royalty relief to some oil and natural gas producers operating on federal lands in the hope of helping small businesses survive. Now that program is coming under scrutiny from Democrats in Congress, who call the move a give-away for industry that hurt taxpayers. 

Canyonlands National Park Credit: NPS

Efforts to derail a planned lease sale for oil and gas development on federal lands in southeast Utah has earned the ire of one local official who argues, instead, that his county should be reopened to development in the midst of COVID-19. Bruce Adams, San Juan County Commissioner, said that leasing needs to resume sooner rather than later due to ongoing economic concerns that first emerged years before, when the previous administration’s rulemakings slowed development. Now, the county faces additional pressures due to the broader economic downturn following COVID-19 closures and the erosion of tourist dollars that usually flow into his county and nearby Moab, Utah due to the presence of multiple national parks and monuments that fill each year with hundreds of thousands of visitors.

Canyonlands National Park Credit: NPS

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is encouraging people to practice social distancing in the great outdoors, announcing that it was temporarily suspending entrance fees for public lands across the country. While this is good news for the broader public, the possibility of a surge of visitors underscores the need to adequately fund park maintenance—a problem the U.S. Senate appeared on the verge of addressing before the epidemic reached the U.S.

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt

In the wake of ongoing COVID-19 concerns, federal agencies regulating energy production have vowed to continue working, promoting telework and promising to conduct legally mandated operations, such as oil and gas lease sales, agency officials said this week. The Bureau of Land Management, Department of the Interior, and Environmental Protection Agency have issued plans to suspend entrance fees temporarily and open national parks and other federally managed properties, promote online oil and gas lease sales, and continue to perform day-to-day tasks while also observing guidelines on protecting the health of both employees and the public. 

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt

The head of the Interior Department defended the relocation of the Bureau of Land Management headquarters to western Colorado and confirmed the agency was “on track” to deliver on public land management needs this week. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt described the enthusiasm of field workers in response to the 2019 move for BLM’s headquarters. He touted the caliber of applicants seeking to join the agency in Colorado and across the West in light of the relocation and agency’s reorganization that began in 2017 under his predecessor, Ryan Zinke.

Bureau of Land Management

A memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the federal government and Colorado’s oil and gas regulators that expired at the end of December 2019 has been extended indefinitely, a temporary fix until a new agreement can be signed this year. The decade-old MOU between two Interior Department agencies and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission establishes how the federal government and state regulators administer oil and gas development on Bureau of Land Management lands that require state approvals, including coordination of permitting.

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