Balash and Udall trade barbs over BLM decentralization - Must Read Alaska
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Balash and Udall trade barbs over BLM decentralization

Photo: Joe Balash, left, Sen. Tom Udall

A U.S. senator from the impoverished state of New Mexico (second poorest in the nation) strenuously objects to having the headquarters of the Bureau of Land Management move to the West from the nation’s capital. Those 32 federal jobs his state would get? Not important.

But his objections came too late, and now he’s unhappy.

In a letter to outgoing Assistant Secretary of the Interior Joe Balash on Aug. 22, Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico and Congresswoman Betty McCollum of Minnesota lobbed criticism at the plans to bring BLM management West, a move announced in July by Balash.

[Read: BLM moving HQ west to Grand Junction, Colorado]

“Based on the incomplete and superficial information that you provided, it appears that the proposal to relocate Bureau headquarters is not based on rigorous financial and organizational analysis, nor is it intended to increase the Bureau’s accountability and improve the management of our nation’s public lands. Instead, we are concerned that the proposal is designed to reduce the Bureau’s effectiveness and relevance. As a result, we object to the Department moving forward with the reorganization of the Bureau and the relocation of its staff,” the lawmakers wrote.

Udall letter-blm-reorg-aug22

The two are unhappy to see the Bureau of Land Management is decentralizing much of its decision making staff to the Western states, where federal workers in charge will be closer to the land they manage. They prefer those decisions be made in Washington, D.C. They say the effort is meant to dismantle the BLM.

Balash, who is with the agency through the end of the month, tapped back a polite letter stating that if Udall and McCollum didn’t want jobs in their states, the agency would happily reconsider whether to put those jobs there.

That infuriated Udall, who took the exchange to the media, leaking the letters a reporter and hit the news at The Hill newspaper, which then published a blustery headline, “Interior official threatens to withhold jobs in lawmakers’ districts after opposition to BLM move.”

‘Threatens’ being the key word.

It was all a bit of August theater, since Udall and McCollum had  missed the 30-day window to object to the move. Udall is a Democrat, and McCollum is a member of the Democrat-Farmer-Labor Party, which is unique to Minnesota. They are both members of their respective Appropriation Subcommittees on lnterior, Environment, and Related Agencies, and they were well aware of the comment window, or should have been.

What Balash’s letter actually said was, in an agreeable tone, “Given your apparent strong feelings about the Department’s actions and intentions, we pledge to review and reconsider the relocation of additional departmental resources to your state. We are also open to working with other delegations that object to additional departmental resources being allocated to their states.”

Udall’s home state of New Mexico was set to receive 32 federal workers, while Minnesota is not included in the plan that would leave 60 employees in Washington, D.C. and move about 300 to western states, with a western headquarters in Grand Junction, Colo., where 27 top BLM managers would be located.

Udall and McCollum appear to be upset that they missed the window to make their objections, and are further upset that Balash called their bluff. It was a slow news day in August in the nation’s capital, particularly since Udall announced in March he will not seek reelection in 2020. As for Balash, he’s only at Interior through the end of the month. Then he’s going fishing.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • Black’s Law Dictionary says that B.L.M. was established by combining “The General Land Office of 1812” & “The Grazing Lease” of 1934 under the Department of the Interior by the “1946 Reorganization Plan No. 3 Sec. 403”. It governs 450 Million acres of Land and the Resources including oil, gas and minerals. It is an Unlawful Receivership in Bankruptcy when you read the wording in Black’s Law Dictionary!!!! It sits Outside the Constitution as does the United States Code. B.L.M. very definitely should never have existed in the beginning nor should the Bankruptcy of 1933.
    Seymour Marvin Mills Jr. sui juris

  • Dismantle BLM is a great move drag a few other agencies with them!!!

  • BLM shouldn’t move to anywhere. Stop this.

    • Why not?

    • Reasons ?

  • New Mexico got BP. They also are on track for 7.8 billion in oil revenue to the state. Maybe Alaska should chase down those 32 jobs.

  • The Bureau of Land Management was separated into separate locations to avoid corruption. It’s highly corrupt now, so if they move it will engage further corrupt activities. This is proven by the desire to ignore laws, Federal oversight, and Congress. It’s been a clear cut issue for decades. The wild horse program is a perfect example. They feel by moving the employees to apply pressure to “it’s our way or the highway,” they will be able to close out the program entirely. Slaughter the wild horses and then remove any protections put in place for our public lands.

  • The longer we have a centralized bureaucracy the longer it will remain corrupt. Moving these agencies closer to the areas they regulate, and the people who’s lives they affect, should yield more accountability and less corruption. It may even shed light on the value of some of these agencies and help determine whether they were needed at all. It goes without saying this era of information and communication technology, there is no practical or logistical reason to centralize to the degree our nation has.

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