Thursday, October 28, 2021

Bureau of Land Management will go back to DC, reversing Trump-era decision

WASHINGTON (AP) — Interior Secretary Deb Haaland is moving the national headquarters of the Bureau of Land Management, which oversees 245 million acres in the western states, back to the nation’s capital after two years in Colorado.

The land management agency lost nearly 300 employees to retirement or resignation after President Donald Trump’s administration moved its headquarters to Grand Junction, Colorado in 2019.

The Bureau has a wide influence on energy development and agriculture in the West, managing public lands for uses ranging from fossil fuel extraction, renewable energy development and grazing to recreation and forestry. Even after four years without a confirmed director, turmoil remains in its staff.

Read more: Biden taps Montana environmentalist to direct Bureau of Land Management

Holland said the agency’s location in Grand Junction would become its western headquarters. The Grand Junction office will reinforce Western approaches in decision-making and “play an important role in the bureau’s clean energy, outdoor recreation, conservation and scientific missions,” the Interior Department said in a news release.

The changes, which will be made in coordination with Congress, will improve the function of the Land Management Agency, help provide clarity for BLM’s 7,000 employees nationwide, and help the bureau better serve the American public and serve as stewards. able to complete the mission. That’s about a fifth of the country’s public land, 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 external heritage,” he said in a statement.

“There is no doubt that the BLM should have a leadership presence in Washington, D.C. – like all other land management agencies – to ensure that policy, budget, and decision-making are in place to best fulfill its mission. Have access to the lever,” Haaland said. He said BLM’s presence in Colorado and throughout the West will continue to grow.

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“The past several years have been incredibly disruptive to the organization, to our public servants and their families,” said Haaland, referring to the work done by his predecessors, Ryan Zinke and David Bernhardt, to move BLM to rural Colorado. Referring to, spark criticism. The Trump administration intended to block the agency that oversees vast tracts of public land in the West. Hundreds of longtime employees opted not to move to Colorado. Only three workers were eventually transferred.

Haaland, who protested the move as a member of Congress from New Mexico, visited the Colorado headquarters in July.

Trump’s first Secretary of the Interior, Zinke, initiated the Colorado move, calling it a restructuring that saw top agency officials oversee nearly a quarter-billion acres of public land. The move was completed under Bernhardt, who succeeded Zinke in 2019.

Read more: Former interior secretary Zinke hired by gold mining firm

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis and members of Colorado’s congressional delegation have urged the Biden administration to keep the BLM in Grand Junction. Democratic US Sen. John Hickenlooper, who invited Haaland to visit Grand Junction, has said the headquarters relocation was “hasty” and disappointed the city, which had hoped for an economic boost.

President Joe Biden’s candidate to head the bureau, former Democratic aide Tracy Stone-Manning, found no Republican support in a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee vote on his nomination in July. The GOP has lambasted the likes of Biden over alleged links to its 1989 environmental sabotage investigation.

Stone-Manning would face a full Senate vote to become the new director. Each Senate Republican and at least one Democratic lawmaker would be required to prevent his confirmation in an equally divided House. Haaland, who will be Stone-Manning’s boss, reiterated his full support for the nominee during his Colorado visit.

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