The Grand Junction office building with the curved roof that by year’s end could be the federal Bureau of Land Management’s headquarters is in an area lined with corporate hotels and fast-food restaurant.
Barely a mile north of the building sits the Grand Junction Airport, and beyond that, in a view that will greet BLM employees daily, is federal public lands governed by the agency.
On Saturday, the day after the BLM announced it had signed a lease for space in 760 Horizon Drive, Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt was in Grand Junction.
He first spoke to Club 20, the 22-county organization of state and local government and business organizations, and then toured the building, including the vacant space on the third floor where the BLM is likely to take up residence.
A floor above is Chevron, the oil company which occupies the fourth floor. On the first floor are the Western Slope branch of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association and Laramie Energy.
Other tenants include ProStar Geocorp, which provides mapping services to clients including oil and gas companies, as well as an insurance agency, a construction company and a software company.
Club 20’s fall conference on Saturday hosted federal and state representatives who all cheered the BLM move: Gov Jared Polis, U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton of Cortez and U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, who has pushed the idea of the agency’s move to Colorado for several years.
Bernhardt saluted all of them in his keynote address Saturday, praising Gardner and fellow Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet for their bipartisan efforts to make the move a reality.
“With the heated rhetoric in Washington, people miss how important bipartisan support is,” Bernhardt said. “We had to have support from the governor,” he explained, and pointed out that Polis, while he represented the 2nd Congressional District, had co-sponsored 2017 legislation to relocate the BLM to Colorado that Tipton authored.
Bernhardt said the agency will keep some of its personnel in Washington, D.C., such as the budget office and key congressional affairs staffers, who will move into the headquarters of the Interior Department.
Tipton said the BLM move will put the decision-makers on the land they’re managing. He also believes more federal headquarters will make the move to the West.
Grand Junction and western Colorado “is the true national gateway to our public lands, and when western Colorado talks to businesses about relocating here,” having the BLM headquarters will be a selling point, Gardner said.
The move is opposed by former BLM managers and officials who believe it is intended to get rid of scientists and longtime agency employees who won’t make the move. It’s also drawing opposition from congressional Democrats and tribal groups.
Gardner was asked about the propriety of the BLM being in the same building as some of the oil and gas companies that lease federal lands from the BLM.
“Washington is infested with special interests,” Gardner replied. “You mean to tell me that BLM is insulated from that? They’re infested.”
“There are thousands of lobbyists in Washington,” he said, adding if the Sierra Club wants to be next door to the BLM, they can be next door.
Polis cheered the BLM move but said he hopes it leads to more than just 27 jobs in Grand Junction.
Western Colorado Alliance for Community Action members protested outside the Colorado Mesa University Center where the Club 20 Fall Conference was held.
“As more details emerge, it appears that the entire BLM move may just be a thinly veiled attempt to dismantle the agency and weaken protections for public lands,” alliance spokesman Stephen Koenigsberg said.