Sen. Gardner announces move of largest U.S. land agency to Grand Junction
DENVER (AP) — The Trump administration will move the headquarters of the U.S. government’s largest land agency from Washington to western Colorado, Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colorado, said Monday.
Gardner said the Bureau of Land Management’s headquarters will move to Grand Junction, but he did not say when the move would occur.
An agency spokeswoman in Washington said she couldn’t confirm or deny the move. She declined to give her name.
Moving the headquarters to a Western state is a key part of the Trump administration’s plan to reorganize the Interior Department, the parent agency of the Bureau of Land Management.
Interior Department officials have said they were considering Grand Junction as well as Denver; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Boise, Idaho; and Salt Lake City for the new headquarters.
Grand Junction, located 87 miles west of Glenwood Springs, has a population of about 63,000 people.
The Bureau of Land Management oversees nearly 388,000 square miles of public land, and 99% is in 12 Western states.
Gardner and other Western politicians have long argued the agency headquarters should be closer to the land it manages.
“The problem with Washington is too many policy makers are far removed from the people they are there to serve,” Gardner said in a news release. “This is a victory for local communities, advocates for public lands and proponents for a more responsible and accountable federal government.”
Rep. Raul M. Grijalva, D-Ariz., chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, attacked the move and noted that Grand Junction is not far from Interior Secretary David Bernhardt’s hometown of Rifle, Colorado.
“Putting BLM headquarters down the road from Secretary Bernhardt’s home town just makes it easier for special interests to walk in the door demanding favors without congressional oversight or accountability,” Grijalva said. “The BLM officials based in Washington are here to work directly with Congress and their federal colleagues, and that function is going to take a permanent hit if this move goes forward.”
About 400 of the bureau’s 9,000 employees are in Washington. The rest are scattered among 140 state, district or field offices.
Grijalva said he suspects the bureau’s true motive is to force out some employees who would not be willing to move.
The Interior Department has previously denied that was a reason for the move.
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