COLUMN: Welcome home, BLM!
As the representative for the 3rd Congressional District of Colorado, I'd like to officially welcome the Bureau of Land Management to Grand Junction! If you missed the news, earlier this week, the Department of the Interior announced that as part of its reorganization efforts, the BLM will relocate its headquarters to Grand Junction and several personnel will be moved from Washington, D.C., to Western states. Ninety-nine percent of federal lands are located in just 12 states in the West, and if we are to trust that federal land management decisions are made with the best interests of the people whom those decisions affect in mind, bringing the decision-makers geographically closer is common sense.
The decision to move the BLM to Grand Junction comes after years of tireless work from local leaders and economic groups, as well as dozens of state and federal officials. I, along with Sen. Cory Gardner, began holding conversations during town halls and meetings in 2016 to get input on how Washington could do a better job managing public lands, and the idea of moving the BLM west was born. I went back to Washington and introduced legislation requiring Interior to submit a strategy to Congress for moving the BLM headquarters west.
Beginning in 2017, leaders at DOI worked on a groundbreaking reorganization plan — one that would help cut down on redundancies and put decision-makers closer to the lands that they manage. Money was appropriated to the Interior Department during the fiscal year 2019 appropriations cycle to facilitate BLM's move, and since then, local leaders and groups in Grand Junction have been in constant communication with Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and his deputies as they have considered potential locations for the new headquarters and Western postings for DC-based staff.
Finally, on the BLM's 73rd birthday, Interior made the official announcement. The BLM will move its headquarters, along with 27 full-time staff, to Grand Junction, and 222 positions currently held in D.C. will transfer to BLM field offices.
Responsible, multiple use of public lands has always contributed greatly to our communities. The BLM plays an incredibly important role in Colorado, and especially on the Western Slope. Mesa County alone comprises more than 70% federal land, and if you look at a map, Grand Junction is practically an island surrounded by BLM lands. This area serves as a microcosm for just about every issue the BLM manages, so there is truly no better location for its headquarters.
I am incredibly grateful for being able to work alongside so many groups and individuals who made this effort become a reality. The incredible collaboration seen at all levels of government over the past few years is an example of how government should function. Welcome home, BLM, I look forward to visiting!