House panel approves amendment to keep BLM HQ in Grand Junction

Congresswoman Lauren Boebert

A House committee has passed an amendment intended to keep the U.S. Bureau of Land Management headquarters in Grand Junction.

The House Committee on Natural Resources voted unanimously to pass an amendment to the concurrent resolution on the budget for the 2022 fiscal year.

U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, a Republican whose congressional district includes Grand Junction, pushed for the amendment. The measure prohibits the use of funds in the 2022 budget to close the BLM headquarters in Grand Junction.

“Westerners deserve a voice in the land use decisions that affect their daily lives, and it would be wrong to move the Bureau of Land Management thousands of miles away from the land it manages back to a faceless marble building in D.C.,” Boebert said. “Ninety-nine percent of the lands that the bureau manages are west of the Mississippi, and it only makes sense to keep the agency located near the communities it serves.”

U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman, a Republican from Arkansas who serves on the House Committee on Natural Resources, agreed. “Federal agencies exist to serve the American people. What better way to do that than by being located in the very communities they serve? The Bureau of Land Management is a critical resource for the American West and as such should remain headquartered there as a way to facilitate better communication and collaboration between federal, state and local stakeholders.”

U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, a Republican from Washington who serves as chairman of the Congressional Western Caucus, said he was pleased the committee supported the amendment. “Moving the Bureau of Land Management’s headquarters to Grand Junction has proven what we know to be true: Our lands in the West are far better managed by boots on the ground than the bureaucrats in D.C.”

The Department of Interior announced in 2019 plans to relocate the BLM headquarters to Grand Junction as well as reassign BLM staff to other locations closer to public lands the agency manages.

Accounting for the higher costs of office space in Washington compared to other areas of the country as well as travel between western states and the capital, it was estimated the move could save $50 million to $100 million over 20 years.

In February, Boebert joined Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper and local stakeholders in an event hosted by the Grand Junction Economic Partnership to discuss keeping BLM headquarters in Grand Junction.

GJEP calculated the initial economic contributions of the BLM headquarters in Grand Junction at $11 million.

The agency moved more than 40 jobs to Grand Junction that pay an average of $122,000 annually in wages and benefits for a total of more than $5 million. 

Using an economic multiplier, BLM employees support an additional 57 local jobs through their spending in the community, resulting in a total $9 million annual employment effects. 

The move also included a $1.25 million capital investment in renovating office space the BLM leases on Horizon Drive and a total of $2 million in additional economic effects.

In July, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland visited Grand Junction in part to announce a $6.1 million investment in a wildfire management and operations center, but also to discuss the future of the BLM headquarters.

Boebert subsequently called on Bennet and Hickenlooper to hold up the nomination of Tracy Stone-Manning as BLM director to secure a commitment to keep the BLM headquarters in Grand Junction.