Decision to relocate BLM’s headquarters under investigation

‘If this administration is confident the move is defensible,’ Democrats say, the Government Accountability Office ‘should have no problem confirming it.’

 

The Bureau of Land Management is leasing offices for its new headquarters in Grand Junction, Colorado, near the airport. The building is also home to offices for energy companies and an oil and gas trade group.
Nick Bowlin/High Country News

This article was originally published by Colorado Public Radio and is republished here with permission.

The Democratic chair of the House Natural Resources Committee announced Wednesday that congressional watchdogs will look into the decision to divide the BLM’s D.C. staff among several cities in the west.

Around two dozen of the top positions are coming to Grand Junction.

Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona said the U.S. Government Accountability Office will “determine if [the move] was properly planned, analyzed, and whether it will deliver the benefits” that the Department of the Interior and the Trump administration have claimed it will.

“If this administration is confident the move is defensible, GAO should have no problem confirming it,” Grijalva said.

The representative has been one of the most vocal critics of the BLM reorganization in Congress. He held a hearing on the move in September with the committee, which has oversight responsibilities of the BLM, and has been requesting documents to justify the move since it was announced in July. Three Colorado representatives sit on the committee: Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn and Democratic Reps. Diana DeGette and Joe Neguse.

“Our committee has seen no analysis, no planning, no budgeting besides the back of the envelope guesses and a promise that this administration knows best,” Grijalva said at a press conference at the U.S. Capitol Wednesday morning.

To back up his records requests, the committee will look to use its subpoena power starting as early as January to get the information it has asked for.

But Grijalva acknowledged that the GAO report and subpoenas could take time, and could all come too late to affect the move. He said that would be “regrettable.”

Grijalva was joined at his event by two former BLM leaders, Bob Abbey and Henri Bisson. They were both at the Capitol to lobby lawmakers against the move. They argued that sending D.C. staff to Grand Junction and other regional offices in the West is not really about putting decision-makers closer to the lands they manage, as supporters claim, but rather handing more decision making power to the political appointees who will remain in Washington, D.C. The result, the men say, will be the dismantling of the BLM.

Bisson said career staff were not involved in, consulted with or asked about the move. He said if they were, a plan could have been developed with buy-in from employees rather than “dictated by political officials.”

Instead, Bisson expects many will leave the BLM rather than move, and that means the agency will lose career staff with expertise and knowledge. Employees have until Dec. 12 to decide to move with their position out West, or try and find new jobs elsewhere.

Acting BLM Director William Perry Pendley disputes those claims. He said last week that he and other leaders consulted and spoke with employees about the move on a number of occasions. And he emphasized the agency is providing financial incentives for the move.

“I think we’re presenting employees with a marvelous opportunity to go to the West,” he said. “But we get it a lot of our employees can’t do that.”

Pendley stressed the agency is trying to find employees who decide to stay in the Washington metro area jobs elsewhere at the Interior Department or in other agencies where their knowledge and skills will be utilized.

Overall, Pendley said the department is confident that there is bipartisan support for the move, noting that it’s backed by Colorado’s Democratic Gov. Jared Polis and the bipartisan Colorado congressional delegation.

Caitlyn Kim is a public affairs reporter for Colorado Public Radio based in Washington D.C. Follow her @caitlynkimEmail High Country News at [email protected] or submit a letter to the editor.

High Country News Classifieds
  • PUBLIC LANDS PROGRAM MANAGER
    Conserve Southwest Utah is seeking a candidate with excellent communication skills and a commitment to environmental conservation for the position of Public Lands Program Manager....
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Western Slope Conservation Center in Paonia, CO, seeks a dynamic leader who is mission-driven, hardworking, and a creative problem-solver. WSCC is committed to creating...
  • PLANNED GIVING OFFICER
    National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), the nation's oldest and largest national parks nonprofit advocacy organization seeks a Planned Giving Officer. Do you find energy in...
  • NORTHERN NEW MEXICO PROJECT MANAGER
    Seeking qualified Northern New Mexico Project Manager to provide expertise, leadership and support to the organization by planning, cultivating, implementing and managing land conservation activities,...
  • REGIONAL TRAIL STEWARDSHIP COORDINATOR
    Are you passionate about connecting people to the outdoors? The Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA) is looking for someone with trail maintenance and volunteer engagement...
  • TRAIL CREW MEMBER
    Position Title: Trail Crew Member Position Type: 6 month seasonal position, April 17-October 15, 2023 Location: Field-based; The RFOV office is in Carbondale, CO, and...
  • CEO BUFFALO NATIONS GRASSLANDS ALLIANCE
    Chief Executive Officer, Remote Exempt position for Buffalo Nations Grasslands Alliance is responsible for the planning and organization of BNGA's day-to-day operations
  • IDAHO DIRECTOR - WESTERN WATERSHEDS PROJECT
    Western Watersheds Project seeks an Idaho Director to continue and expand upon WWP's campaign to protect and restore public lands and wildlife in Idaho, with...
  • DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT, NA'AH ILLAHEE FUND
    Na'ah Illahee Fund (NIF) is seeking a highly qualified Development Director to join our team in supporting and furthering our mission. This position will create...
  • DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS, NA'AH ILLAHEE FUND
    Na'ah Illahee Fund (NIF) is seeking a highly qualified Operations Director to join our team. This position will provide critical organizational and systems support to...
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    Grand Staircase Escalante Partners (GSEP) is seeking a leader to join our dynamic team in the long-term protection of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM). We...
  • GRASSLAND RESEARCH COORDINATOR
    The Grassland Research Coordinator is a cooperative position with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that performs and participates in and coordinates data collection for...
  • HYDROELECTRIC PLANT
    1.3 MW FERC licensed hydroelectric station near Taylorsville CA. Property is 184 deeded acres surrounded by National Forrest.
  • "PROFILES IN COURAGE: STANDING AGAINST THE WYOMING WIND"
    13 stories of extraordinary courage including HCN founder Tom Bell, PRBRC director Lynn Dickey, Liz Cheney, People of Heart Mountain, the Wind River Indian Reservation...
  • GRANT WRITER
    JOB DESCRIPTION: This Work involves the responsibility of conducting research in the procurement of Federal, State, County, and private grant funding. Additional responsibilities include identifying...
  • ASPIRE COLORADO SUSTAINABLE BODY AND HOME CARE PRODUCTS
    Go Bulk! Go Natural! Our products are better for you and better for the environment. Say no to single-use plastic. Made in U.S.A., by a...
  • CANYONLANDS FIELD INSTITUTE
    Field seminars for adults in the natural and human history of the Colorado Plateau, with lodge and base camp options. Small groups, guest experts.
  • ATTORNEY AD
    Criminal Defense, Code Enforcement, Water Rights, Mental Health Defense, Resentencing.
  • LUNATEC HYDRATION SPRAY BOTTLE
    A must for campers and outdoor enthusiasts. Cools, cleans and hydrates with mist, stream and shower patterns. Hundreds of uses.
  • LUNATEC ODOR-FREE DISHCLOTHS
    are a must try. They stay odor-free, dry fast, are durable and don't require machine washing. Try today.