The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has leased space in a Grand Junction office building as part of plans to relocate the headquarters of the federal agency.
“Standing up the headquarters is another step in providing better service to the American people and our neighbors in the West,” said David Bernhardt, secretary of the Department of Interior, which oversees the BLM.
Bernhardt came to Grand Junction to inspect the building at 760 Horizon Drive and also delivered the keynote speech at the Club 20 fall conference.
William Perry Pendley, acting head of the BLM, said the lease marks another step in a reorganization that moves staff from Washington, D.C., to locations in western states and closer to the public lands the agency manages. “The relocation of our headquarters will provide significant benefits, including more efficient operations and being a better neighbor to western communities. These are things the BLM has always stood for and align well with the department’s priorities.”
Jamie Connell, state director for the BLM in Colorado, also welcomed the relocation of the headquarters. “The state and the entire bureau will benefit from the policies and procedures these positions are responsible for, which directly impact the agency’s day-to-day operations. We look forward to welcoming these employees, including BLM senior leadership, to our beautiful state.”
The BLM announced in July plans to move 27 executive and support positions to Grand Junction as part of a reorganization that will transfer 296 positions from Washington, D.C. to locations in western states. Another 58 positions will be assigned to Colorado, including national and state offices in Lakewood.
The BLM has advertised 19 positions, all currently vacant, that will be located in the new headquarters. These positions include senior leadership and experienced senior staff roles as well as three senior executive service positions.
The BLM worked with the General Services Administration to identify suitable properties and develop the lease. The terms will offer savings over the higher cost of office space in Washington. The Department of Interior estimated the overall BLM reorganization could save $50 million to $100 million over 20 years.
U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, a Republican from Colorado, said he’s worked since 2016 to move the BLM headquarters to the West. He hailed the announcement the BLM signed a lease on office space in Grand Junction.
“On behalf of the state of Colorado, I am excited to welcome the Bureau of Land Management to its new home in Grand Junction,” Gardner said. “From the very beginning, moving the BLM’s headquarters West has always been about strengthening the BLM’s relationship with local officials, moving the decision makers closer to the lands they oversee and the people they serve and making better land management decisions. This commonsense move will save taxpayers money and solidify Colorado’s legacy as a responsible steward of public lands.”
In the meantime, though, a public lands watchdog group based in Montana opposes the move.
The Western Values Project filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia for public documents related to plans to relocate the BLM headquarters. The documents were requested under the Freedom of Information Act.
The suit follows calls by U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., chairman of the House Natural Resource Committee, to subpoena the Department of the Interior to release its reorganization and relocation plans.
Jayson O’Neill, deputy director of the Western Values Project, said there are more questions than answers about plans to relocate the BLM, including what could be efforts to transfer public lands to states as a precursor to selling them to private interests. “Interior Secretary Bernhardt has left just about everyone in the dark when it comes to this harebrained, costly political power grab concocted behind closed doors for special interests.”