The Bureau of Land Management, for a brief moment in history was to be located in Colorado, where the agency could be closer to the land it manages.
All that changed last week when Interior Sec. Deb Haaland, whose nomination was backed by all three of Alaska’s congressional members, announced the agency would be once again located in Washington, D.C., so that senior officials could be closer to Congress.
The Trump Administration move to relocate it to Grand Junction, Colo. was because one in every 10 acres in America is managed by the BLM, which has control of 30 percent of the nation’s minerals, as well. Being located in the nation’s capital was seen by the Trump Administration as being out of touch with the agency’s mission.
In Alaska, the agency manages more surface and subsurface acres than in any other state, including 70 million surface acres and 220 million subsurface acres (federal mineral estate) in a state with a landmass equivalent to about one-fifth of the entire contiguous United States.
Haaland informed BLM employees Friday, although many of them already knew. In a department press release, she said the Grand Junction office will be expanded as a western headquarters, but that senior staff will be moved to Washington, D.C.
“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,” Haaland said. “There’s 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.”
“The past several years have been incredibly disruptive to the organization, to our public servants, and to their families. 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,” she said. “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.”