The Bureau of Land Management will move its headquarters from Washington, D.C., to Grand Junction, Sen. Cory Gardner announced Monday.
“Relocating the Bureau of Land Management to the Western Slope of Colorado will bring the bureau’s decision makers closer to the people they serve and the public lands they manage. The problem with Washington is too many policy makers are far removed from the people they are there to serve,” Gardner said in a statement. “Ninety-nine percent of the land the BLM manages is West of the Mississippi River, and so should be the BLM headquarters. This is a victory for local communities, advocates for public lands and proponents for a more responsible and accountable federal government.”
The Republican senator from Colorado originally posed the idea of moving BLM west in 2016, when former BLM director Neil Kornze chuckled before saying he would be open to discussing it.
Grand Junction’s interstate and airport access as well as proximity to Colorado Mesa University are all reasons that make the city a good fit, Gardner said.
Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, also celebrated the bureau’s move to Grand Junction. He has worked alongside Gardner to relocate the BLM since 2016.
“Today is a great day for Grand Junction, the Western Slope and for every believer that the federal government should be closer to the people whom its decisions affect,” Tipton said in a statement. “Colorado’s third congressional district serves as a microcosm of almost every land management issue in the American West.”
Gardner is not concerned about BLM losing influence in Washington. He said BLM Director Casey Hammond does not tend to spend his days on Capitol Hill or in Cabinet meetings.
“In fact, I think it would actually gain in influence because they’d have more credibility with the administration on the policies and rules it makes because the decisions it makes would be more local-based,” Gardner told The Durango Herald in a previous interview.
About 80 jobs would move to Grand Junction as part of the relocation, The Washington Post reported.
Jennifer Rokala, director of conservation advocacy group Center for Western Priorities, commended bringing jobs to Colorado but said the announcement amounted to a public relations stunt.
“The agency has dozens of offices across the West,” she said in a statement. “Moving senior BLM leadership would only turn the agency into an afterthought, rather than a core piece of the Interior Department.”
Rokala added that money spent on relocating the BLM should be used to fix infrastructure at parks and public lands.
The Interior Department, which oversees the BLM, recently spent $2.45 million for President Donald Trump’s Fourth of July military celebration on the National Mall in Washington.
James Marshall is a student at American University in Washington, D.C., and an intern for The Durango Herald.