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Only Three BLM Employees Relocated To New Western Headquarters

Headquarters for the Bureau of Land Management in Grand Junction.
Headquarters for the Bureau of Land Management in Grand Junction, Colorado.

When headquarters for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) relocated from Washington D.C. to Grand Junction, CO, it was a controversial move.

The Trump Administration and some Mountain West lawmakers said the idea was to get decision-makers closer to the land and resources they manage. But critics, including Democrats, conservationists and former BLM employees, saw it as a way to gut the federal agency in favor of Trump’s "American energy dominance" agenda.

According to a BLM spokesperson, 328 DC-based positions were reassigned out West. Hundreds of those employees either quit or retired, according to data from the Interior Department released in January. A total of 41 people relocated. Of those, only three landed at headquarters in Grand Junction. That number was first reported by Colorado Newsline on Tuesday, and was confirmed by the agency to a Mountain West News Bureau reporter later that day.

The fate of the agency's headquarters was raised during a confirmation hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural resources committee for Tracy Stone-Manning, who is nominated to lead the BLM.

Democratic Sen. John Hickenlooper of Colorado described the move as "done in haste," and that "it didn't pan out the way it was promised."

He then asked Stone-Manning to consider those employees that have relocated, and recognize how they are hanging "in the balance in some way."

Stone-Manning noted that the department and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland are currently reviewing the issue, and are surveying employees, before she said, "You have my commitment to dive in and carry the folks of Grand Junction and their concerns with me to the consideration."

George Stone, with the Public Lands Foundation and a former BLM employee, said the reorganization never made sense.

"A lot of headquarters functions involve budget coordination, national policy, for example," he said. "These are the kinds of things that go on in Washington, DC. When you try and scatter these functions throughout the West, the coordination collapses. It just does."

Stone's organization has demanded that the BLM director and the agency's headquarters senior executive leadership positions who are currently located in Grand Junction, "should be immediately returned to Washington, DC."

Stone said he is eager to see if Stone-Manning is confirmed.

"She'll have to weigh in on how best to lead the agency and what to do with a lot of vacant positions that BLM has to fill and not only how to fill them, but where to station those positions," he said.

According to a BLM spokesperson, there are currently 11 BLM career staff vacancies within the Grand Junction headquarters office.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Maggie Mullen is Wyoming Public Radio's regional reporter with the Mountain West News Bureau. Her work has aired on NPR, Marketplace, Science Friday, and Here and Now. She was awarded a 2019 regional Edward R. Murrow Award for her story on the Black 14.
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