- The Washington Times - Friday, July 23, 2021

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis and Rep. Lauren Boebert may not have much in common politically, but both on Friday urged Interior Secretary Deb Haaland to keep the Bureau of Land Management headquarters in western Colorado.

The Colorado lawmakers were part of a delegation that accompanied Ms. Haaland as she visited the newly relocated BLM office in Grand Junction, Colorado, which was moved last year from Washington, D.C., over the objections of the federal bureaucracy

“Westerners deserve a voice in the land-use decisions that affect their daily lives, and it would be wrong to move the Bureau back to a faceless marble building in D.C.,” the Republican Boebert said in a statement. “Since 99% of the lands that the Bureau manages are West of the Mississippi, it only makes sense to keep the agency located near the communities it serves.”

The delegation accompanying Ms. Haaland included Colorado Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper and Rep. Joe Neguse, all Democrats.

Ms. Haaland said that whether the BLM headquarters would remain in Grand Junction was an “open question, but needs to be known soon,” according to Colorado Newsline.

At the same time, she said the move had been “enormously challenging” for BLM employees, as reported by the Grand Junction Sentinel, but that she would “remain open to the idea that Grand Junction can and will play a significant role in BLM’s future.”

“It was an eye-opening experience and reinforced my conviction that we need to put the BLM employees first and do what is right for them,” Ms. Haaland said. “We need to provide a path forward for clarity and to avoid having employees face renewed uncertainty under future administrations. We owe it to the people of Grand Junction as well.”

The Public Lands Foundation, an advocacy group of retired agency employees, opposed the relocated to Grand Junction and has called for the agency leadership to be “immediately returned to Washington, D.C.,” arguing that the move has weakened the agency’s influence on public lands issues.

Ms. Boebert asked the secretary to listen to the “ranchers, county commissioners, sheriffs, farmers, hunters, hikers, off-roaders, and other outdoor recreation enthusiasts who have benefited from the agency’s move West.”

“While some have tried to politicize the Bureau’s move to Grand Junction because they detest anything associated with the previous administration, the facts are clear: Moving the headquarters to this great community has always had broad bipartisan and bicameral support,” Ms. Boebert said.

Nearly 300 BLM employees retired or found new jobs rather than move to Grand Junction, while 41 moved West to offices that included the headquarters in Grand Junction, while “scores of vacancies remain to be filled,” Ms. Haaland said.

In a Friday post on Facebook, Mr. Polis said that “I joined Secretary Haaland and our federal delegation at Colorado Mesa University to advocate for the presence of Bureau of Land Management in Grand Junction and the importance of having those who work in public land management immersed in the lands and the communities they serve.”

In a statement, Mr. Hickenlooper said he and Mr. Bennet “support a fully functioning BLM headquarters in Grand Junction, which the previous administration failed to deliver.”

Rep. Bruce Westerman, ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee, said he fully supports keeping the BLM headquarters in Washington, D.C.

“Moving BLM headquarters out West was a strategic choice, allowing them to better interact with the people they represent,” the Republican Westerman said. “For this administration to use BLM as a political yo-yo would be expensive, irresponsible and short-sighted.”

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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