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In a Reversal of Trump Era Policy, Interior Moves BLM Headquarters Back to DC

September 17, 2021 by Dan McCue
Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. (Department of Interior)

WASHINGTON – The Interior Department announced Friday that it has decided to move the headquarters for the Bureau of Land Management back to Washington, D.C., while continuing to maintain its Colorado office as a “Western headquarters.”

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced the decision during a meeting of BLM employees.

Former President Donald Trump announced he was moving a majority of Bureau of Land Management employees to Grand Junction, Colorado, in July 2019, touching off a massive exodus from the agency.

The Trump administration’s stated goal was to shift power away from the nation’s capital, but in the end, only 41 employees agreed to be relocated with three moving to Grand Junction., while 287 others either retired or left the agency before the end of 2020.

Haaland’s decision is said to be a step toward rebuilding and strengthening the Bureau “following years of transition and upheaval among the workforce.”

In a press release, the agency said the change will “improve the function of the bureau, help provide clarity for the BLM’s more than 7,000 employees across the country, maintain and increase access for stakeholders, and enable the bureau to better serve the American public and fulfill its mission as the steward of nearly one-fifth of the nation’s public lands.”

Under this plan, the BLM’s Colorado office “will reinforce western perspectives in decision-making and have an important role to play in the bureau’s clean energy, outdoor recreation, conservation, and scientific missions, among other important work as a leadership center in the West,” the release said.

In her comments to the BLM staff, Secretary Haaland said the Bureau of Land Management is critical to the nation’s efforts to address the climate crisis, expand public access to our public lands, and preserve our nation’s shared outdoor heritage. 

“It is imperative that the bureau have the appropriate structure and resources to serve the American public,” she said, adding, “There is no doubt that the BLM should have a leadership presence in Washington, D.C. – like all the other land management agencies – to ensure that it has access to the policy-, budget-, and decision-making levers to best carry out its mission.

“In addition, the BLM’s robust presence in Colorado and across the West will continue to grow,” she said.

According to the Interior Department, Trump’s decision to relocate the BLM headquarters to Colorado failed to deliver promised jobs across the West and drove hundreds of people out of the agency. 

“The headquarters transition will be conducted with a goal of minimizing further disruption to employees and their families. Outside of the aforementioned core leadership positions, the BLM does not plan to require employees to relocate,” the department said.

Neither the Interior Department nor the Bureau of Land Management laid out a timeline for the shift back to D.C.

The Interior Department intends to locate the Bureau director and other key leadership positions in the national headquarters where they can ensure coordination with Congress, other federal agencies, and stakeholders that visit Washington, D.C. 

Additional senior personnel will operate from the Western headquarters, as part of the more than 95% of BLM employees that are already located outside of Washington, D.C., the department said.

“The past several years have been incredibly disruptive to the organization, to our public servants, and to their families,” Haaland said. “As we move forward, my priority is to revitalize and rebuild the BLM so that it can meet the pressing challenges of our time, and to look out for our employees’ well-being. 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.”

Interior

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