Northwest

BLM, federal workers bullied by Trump administration, former Interior secretary says at Boise event

President Barack Obama’s former U.S. Department of Interior secretary said she thinks the Trump administration is bullying federal employees by taking away tools to adequately do their jobs and then pointing out their failures when they can’t get the work done.

“It is awkward when you are a public servant to make any kind of a political statement, but the gloves are off for me,” Sally Jewell said during a speech at Boise State University on Wednesday.

Jewell served as Interior secretary under Obama from 2013 to 2017. She is now the interim director of The Nature Conservancy.

“I feel for all of our federal public servants. There is an effort to force this government to be ineffective. There is an effort to not give people the resources they need or the support they need to do the job that they want to do, so that people can say you are not doing your job,” Jewell said during a speech at the Andrus Center for Public Policy Women in Leadership Conference.

Jewell said the Trump administration’s desire to relocate the headquarters of the Bureau of Land Management is one example of such treatment.

“For those of you that aren’t tuned into the Bureau of Land Management, it manages a quarter of a billion acres of land in the United States and our subsurface mineral estate, which is about three-quarters of a billion acres,” she said.

In Idaho, the BLM manages nearly 12 million acres of public lands, about one-quarter of the state’s total land area.

The Trump administration wants to move BLM’s headquarters from Washington, D.C., to western Colorado — in the same building that houses a Chevron corporate office, a state oil and gas association, and an independent natural gas exploration company. The BLM oversees leasing, grazing and other activities on federal land.

“They are going to take the remaining people, which largely deal with advocacy for the BLM in Washington, D.C., and move them to Grand Junction, Colorado. Because that is such an epicenter for political leadership,” she said.

“If you have raised your family in Washington, D.C., you really know this business well, you’ve got relationships on Capitol Hill, your kids are in school, your spouse is working, and they want to move you to Grand Junction.”

That’s essentially an invitation to find a job someplace else, Jewell said.

“This is a not-so-thinly-veiled attempt to get people to quit,” she told the audience. “... We are losing really good people across government, and that is partly the intent. I think that is a shame.”

She said she would be willing to return to the Department of Interior to help fix its disarray.

“If there is any way I can help turn around what has been done, in any position, even if it is advising out of a closet someplace, I would do it,” Jewell said.

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Idaho Statesman investigative reporter Cynthia Sewell was named Idaho Press Club reporter of the year in 2017 and 2008. A University of Oregon graduate, she joined the Statesman in 2005. Her family has lived in Idaho since the mid-1800s.
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