Will the Bureau of Land Management shift its headquarters to the West?
That would be the result of legislation introduced May 2 by Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo. Gardner’s proposal, the Bureau of Land Management Headquarters Relocation Act, would authorize the move of the BLM HQ from Washington, D.C., to Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah or Washington. A similar measure was introduced in the House by Rep. Scott Tipton.
“Moving BLM’s headquarters West is a commonsense solution that Coloradans from across the political spectrum support,” Gardner said in a press release announcing the bill. “Ninety-nine percent of the nearly 250 million acres of land managed by BLM is West of the Mississippi River, and having the decision-makers present in the communities they impact will lead to better policy. Coloradans want more Colorado common sense from Washington and this proposal accomplishes that goal.”
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The bill advances an initiative that Gardner has favored for some time, and one that he brought up in confirmation hearings for Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.
“It is critical that land management decisions impacting the West are made by the people who know the land best,” Tipton said in the press release. “Moving the BLM’s headquarters to a Western state would help ensure that federal agencies have a full understanding of the ways their decisions impact our families and communities. I am sure the people of Grand Junction would join me in inviting the BLM to the Western Slope, but a move of the headquarters to any Western city would be welcome news.”
Tipton and Gardner support Grand Junction as the headquarters for the BLM, but favor any western location, given that 99 percent of BLM-protected lands are in the West. The measure has been endorsed by Colorado Agriculture Commissioner Don Brown, the Colorado Farm Bureau and others.
What chance it has of becoming reality is unclear. Entrenched interests inside the Washington beltway have resisted other attempts to relocate federal agencies away from the nation’s capital. (Anyone remember efforts to move the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution to the defunct Stapleton International Airport?)
But the BLM is not a tourist or cultural attraction like the Smithsonian, and other high-powered politicians have favored the concept of shifting federal agencies outside Washington. Utah Republican Jason Chaffetz recently supported the idea in concept, arguing that the price of housing in Washington — as well as opportunities presented by the Internet, telecommuting, video conferencing and other innovations — make it easier for dispersed agencies to function. Such shifts would also make the government more “in touch” with the public, Chaffetz says.
Of course, Colorado is no stranger to federal agencies. The Denver Federal Center in Lakewood includes 26 agencies employing 6,200 workers. And Boulder, Jefferson and Larimer counties serve as home for more than two dozen federal laboratories.
So shifting the BLM to Colorado or another western state might not be all that far-fetched.
Christopher Wood can be reached at 303-630-1942, 970-232-3133 or email@example.com.