Editorials

The Bureau of Land Management’s move to Grand Junction is a bad idea. Here’s why

David Bernhardt, Trump’s nominee to serve as new Interior secretary, is a former lobbyist for Valley agricultural powerhouse Westlands Water District.
David Bernhardt, Trump’s nominee to serve as new Interior secretary, is a former lobbyist for Valley agricultural powerhouse Westlands Water District.

On its face, moving Bureau of Land Management workers out of Washington, D.C., and out into Western states is a fantastic idea.

According to Colorado Public Radio, BLM plans to move 222 employees to BLM state offices, 74 positions will be reallocated to state offices, reporting to state directors, and 27 positions will relocate to Grand Junction, including the director, deputy director and their attendant staff. In all, 61 workers will remain in Washington, D.C., at the headquarters of the Department of Interior.

In principle, we are in favor of having BLM workers working in living out in the 12 Western states where there are 247 million acres of public land that the agency’s 10,000 people manage.

Living and working in a Western city will show BLM workers firsthand how their decisions directly affect the land around them, the people who live there and the communities that are struggling to thrive.

BLM workers living and working in a Western state are more likely to run into a rancher or an outfitter or a fly fishing shop owner down at the grocery store if they actually live among them. In D.C., they’re more likely to run into a lobbyist.

Full speed ahead, then, right?

Not so fast.

Whether we like it or not, Washington, D.C., is our nation’s capital, and whether we like it or not, that’s where decisions get made.

Unless we suggest moving the White House, Congress, the Department of Interior, Department of Energy and other government agencies to little old Grand Junction, Colorado, moving BLM headquarters and its top 27 positions to Grand Junction will hamstring the BLM.

The director, assistant director and their staff will be far away from lawmakers and other agency heads with whom they should be collaborating and consulting.

Even the lobbyists must hate this idea. Now, they have to send their contingents to Grand Junction in addition to the throngs they employ in Washington. And make no mistake, the lobbyists will send contingents to Grand Junction. Will the rancher from Challis or outfitter in Lewiston have better access to the headquarters in Grand Junction?

Another point to consider is government waste. Do you know how expensive it is to fly in and out of Grand Junction, Colorado? At the moment, there aren’t even any nonstop flights between Grand Junction and Washington. Think about that for a minute. If the director of the BLM needs to jet back to Washington, D.C., for a meeting, he’s going to have to go through Denver first or lay over in Dallas-Fort Worth, scarfing down an enchilada at Pappasito’s Cantina at Gate A28.

We are all in favor of BLM employees being “closer to the land” that they manage. We’d support moving a majority of those employees to a Western city to establish “BLM West Headquarters.”

If we were being selfish, we’d suggest putting it in Boise, but even we recognize that we also lack direct flights to Washington, or to a lot of other places, for that matter.

So we’d also respectfully suggest BLM West be located in Denver or Salt Lake City.

Regardless, though, we’d still keep BLM headquarters along with its top decision makers, the director, assistant director and top staff, in Washington, D.C., so that they’d be closer to the power center where decisions are made.

Statesman editorials are the unsigned opinion expressing the consensus of the Idaho Statesman’s editorial board.
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