According to the U.S. Department of the Interior, Grand Junction will become the new home of the Bureau of Land Management’s headquarters, part of a “realignment of resources to the West.”
As part of the move, 61 of the Bureau’s staff will remain in Washington D.C. while 296 positions will relocate westward. Of those positions, 74 will be re-allocated from the D.C. office to the BLM’s state offices, which focus on operations and land management specific to their respective states.
As a result of the move, 85 BLM jobs will be relocated to Colorado (including 27 at the new headquarters in Grand Junction), 49 to Nevada, 44 to Utah and the remainder to other Western states.
The Department of the Interior said that the job reallocations would save more than $50 million annually in salaries, roughly equivalent to 5% of the BLM’s annual budget. The department also forecasted savings on building rents and travel costs.
Jobs that will move to Utah will be mainly from divisions responsible for BLM’s media relations, recreation management operations and data collection and disbursement. A Department of the Interior report on the move to Grand Junction cites growth in recreation in Utah as a main reason for the reallocations.
“Given the growth in recreation opportunities across the State [of Utah], these positions will provide increased support to the field while offering improved coordination with external partners and direct exposure to the resources the Division [of National Conservation Lands and Community Partnerships] manages,” said a report from the Department of the Interior released Tuesday, July 16.
The move has its critics, particularly those who are wont to criticize President Donald Trump and David Bernhardt, an attorney and oil industry lobbyist who he appointed as Secretary of the Interior, and whose hometown is an hour from Grand Junction in Rifle, Colorado.
Kate Kelly, the public lands director for the progressive think tank Center for American Progress, told the Salt Lake Tribune that the move was not good for the BLM but, rather, was a means of “undermining the federal workforce.”
The Center for Western Priorities, a conservation group based in Colorado, called the plan to move the BLM headquarters a way to “dismantle” the bureau. The group also fears that it will “drive out career staff and reduce the agency’s ability to effectively coordinate with lawmakers.”
Meanwhile, Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, who since 2016 has advocated for Grand Junction to become the new home of the bureau, said he was “thrilled” about the move. Gardner was one of the first officials to break the news of the move.
“This is a smart decision that transcends political parties and will generate a positive economic ripple effect through the State of Colorado,” Gardner said in a press release. “I commend the Department of Interior for relocating the agency closer to the people it serves and the public lands it manages.”