- Secretary Haaland announced that the headquarters of the Bureau of Land Management will return to DC.
- The Colorado office will remain open and become the agency’s western headquarters.
- The agency was moved to Colorado by the Trump administration in a widely criticized move.
Home Secretary Deb Haaland announced on Friday that the national office of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will return to Washington, DC, after being moved to Colorado, a reversal of a decision by the administration of the former President Donald Trump to place the public land agency in the Critical West region.
The office, which oversees nearly a fifth of public land in the United States and has more than 7,000 employees, is in the process of recalibrating itself after losing nearly 300 employees to retirement or resignation following the transfer of its head office in Grand Junction in 2019.
Haaland, a former congressman from New Mexico and first secretary to the Native American cabinet, said the Colorado office would be reshuffled to become the agency’s western headquarters.
“The Bureau of Land Management is essential to the country’s efforts to address the climate crisis, expand public access to our public lands and preserve our country’s common external heritage. It is imperative that the office has the structure. and appropriate resources to serve the American public, ”she said. “There is no doubt that the BLM should have a leadership presence in Washington, DC – like all other land management agencies – to ensure it has access to the political, budgetary and decision-making levers to carry out his mission .”
The Colorado office will broaden and strengthen Western perspectives in its overall mission, particularly in clean energy, conservation, and science missions.
According to data released by the Biden administration, around 87% of BLM staff left the agency when the Trump administration triggered the change to the Centennial State.
Critics of the previous administration’s decision allege the relocation was intended to oust long-time employees and stifle the agency.
In his comments, Haaland acknowledged that the previous move created untenable situations for agency employees.
“The past few years have been incredibly disruptive for the organization, for our officials and their families,” she said. “As we move forward, my priority is to re-energize and rebuild the BLM so that it can meet the pressing challenges of our time, and to ensure the well-being of our employees.”
She added, “I look forward to continuing to work with Congress, tribes, elected officials and the many stakeholders who care about the stewardship of our shared public lands and healthy communities.
Ryan Zinke, former congressman from Montana and Trump’s first home secretary, set the stage for the move to Colorado, stressing during his tenure that officials should be closer to the vast public lands that fall under jurisdiction. of the agency. The relocation was finalized under David Bernhardt, who took over from Zinke in 2019.
While many progressives applauded the return to the nation’s Capitol, Democratic Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado lamented the move while remaining optimistic about the enhanced Western presence.
“While I am disappointed that the national headquarters are in Washington, I think the establishment and development of a permanent BLM Western headquarters in Grand Junction should be a very positive development,” he said in a statement. communicated. “Over the next few months, I will hold the administration accountable for ensuring that BLM Western’s headquarters are permanent, fully staffed and informed through the voices of Rocky Mountain West – after the last administration has taken over. not kept that promise. “
However, GOP Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming lambasted the decision.
“The Biden administration’s response to anything is to double the size of government,” he said. “The Bureau of Land Management does not need two headquarters. The Bureau of Land Management’s single headquarters belongs to the West, closer to the resources it manages and the people it serves.”