U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is prepared to move ahead on moving the Bureau of Land Management headquarters to the West, according to reports.
Grand Junction is expected to be a prime possibility for the new national headquarters, partly because of the work of Colorado’s two U.S. senators, Republican Cory Gardner of Yuma and Michael Bennet of Denver
Another advocate for Grand Junction, U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, said in a press release Thursday that a department official had confirmed the process of vetting locations is under way.
“While the BLM has over 10,000 employees, all major decisions are made by just 400 employees based in Washington,” Tipton wrote in a column for Colorado Politics in February. “By moving the headquarters west, decisions would more likely be made by those who understand the land best, resulting in more effective land management programs and policies. As we have seen in the past, a lack of understanding and awareness can lead to some very flawed policies.”
Congress will make the final decision on authorizing the move. Gardner and Tipton already have introduced legislation to authorize the move to the West.
David Bernhardt, who grew up in Rifle and is the second-in-command at the Department of Interior, told Colorado Politics in an interview this month that partisan attacks on the Trump administration proposal could slow the effort, if Democrats win a majority in either chamber in November.
Tipton’s office said Thursday that the department will conduct an analysis to help choose a location in the next six to eight months, Interior Department senior adviser Susan Combs told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, according to the release Thursday. “Ninety-nine percent of the land that the BLM manages is located in the West, and the decisions made by the Bureau have daily impacts on those who live there, so it only makes sense to move the headquarters to a Western state. This would ensure that decisions would be made by those who understand the land best, resulting in more effective land management programs and policies.
“The district I am fortunate enough to represent serves as a microcosm of almost every western land-management issue and I encourage the Department of the Interior to strongly consider Colorado’s Third District for the new BLM headquarters.”