Could the BLM headquarters move to Grand Junction?

Published: Apr. 11, 2017 at 4:56 PM EDT
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Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) is advocating to move the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) headquarters out of Washington and to Grand Junction.

The agency oversees more than 247 million acres of public lands in the United States. Nearly 70 years after its creation, Sen. Gardner is calling for change.

“My idea is to move the BLM headquarters to the west, put it in a state that's surrounded by BLM lands," Sen. Gardner said.

Gardner says he'd like to see the agency move it's headquarters nearly 2,000 miles from our nation's capital to Grand Junction.

“It's got great air access to the airport. It's right on the interstate. It's located close to Wyoming, Utah and other BLM heavy states," Gardner said.

However, some say moving the headquarters of this federal agency isn't a good idea.

“Being in Washington allows you to have much more influence with what's going on with the parent agencies," said Mark Squillace, director of the Natural Resources Law Center at the University of Colorado School of Law and a former Interior Department staffer.

"If the agency has moved to Grand Junction or somewhere else out in the Western United States, that kind of influence that it has now within the department, I think would be challenged," he explained.

Squillace also says the move could appear to create an unfair advantage.

“It would, I think be problematic just in terms of the concern that it would favor Colorado in some fashion over some other Western states," he said.

The Bureau of Land Management headquarters are here inside the Department of Interior. One expert says the BLM could decide to relocate its headquarters without Congressional approval.

“Generally speaking, the agencies are free to allocate their resources however they see fit and Congress sets the budget and sometimes they put conditions on the budget," said Jeff Ruch, the executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

"For the most part, they [Congress] don't get into the location of people's desks and things like that," Ruch explained.

Ruch says only 600 of the agency's 9,000 employees are based in Washington.

“95 percent of their people are already out on the west anyway. They are either in field offices or regional offices. If you moved it, I'm not sure in terms of the number of people involved, anyone would notice," he said.

Sen. Gardner says he's working with the Department of Interior, hoping to gain support for the proposal.

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