Support increases for BLM to stay put | Editorials
The arguments for and against retaining the headquarters of the Bureau of Land Management in Grand Junction are well established.
Supporters of a Western headquarters say senior officials of the federal agency should be physically close to the BLM lands they administer, which are located almost exclusively west of the Mississippi River, while opponents say the BLM’s field offices already fulfill this function and that agency leaders need to be close to policymakers and oversight committees in Washington, DC. The most cynical claim is that this move was aimed at dismantling the agency.
U.S. Representative Joe Neguse brings a new perspective to the issue, highlighting how the BLM can play a role in the Biden administration‘s climate agenda. Less than a week after his inauguration in January, President Joe Biden signed an executive order that took steps to align public land management with his administration’s climate, conservation and clean energy goals.
“From historic wildfires and record droughts to water management challenges, the western United States has a front-row seat to the impacts of climate change,” said Neguse, D-Lafayette, in a statement released Wednesday. This follows a letter he wrote to Home Secretary Deb Haaland, in which he expressed support for maintaining the headquarters in Grand Junction and having adequate staff to ensure full operations.
Additionally, Neguse suggests that there is an untapped synergy in keeping the BLM west.
“Home to numerous scientific experts and federal laboratories, Colorado is also a leader in climate solutions in the West. Maintaining BLM’s headquarters in Grand Junction would harness knowledge and experience in these areas and give agency employees the opportunity to live, work and recreate on the lands they manage.
A bipartisan movement to keep the BLM headquarters in Junction
As Sentinel’s Dennis Webb reported in Thursday’s newspaper, Mesa County officials view Neguse’s support as essential. Neguse chairs the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands – which is part of the House Natural Resources Committee chaired by Representative Raul Grijalva, in D-Ariz., Who said that the headquarters move appears to have been intended to cripple the BLM.
Neguse provides a counterweight to this position. Whatever the motive, the BLM has already moved and Neguse is highlighting the benefits of staying, recruiting staff, and solving challenges that have a disproportionate impact on Western states.
Mesa County Commissioner Scott McInnis was happy to get Neguse’s support, noting that “he is a member of the majority party and he knows the secretary very well.”
Neguse wrote his letter after consulting with community leaders this week and last. He is the latest member of the Colorado congressional delegation to approve a “stay” position for the BLM. This includes Republican Representatives Lauren Boebert, Doug Lamborn and Ken Buck, and Democratic Senators Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper. Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, also spoke out in favor of keeping the BLM headquarters in Grand Junction.
Neguse’s letter extended the mandatory invitation for Haaland to visit Colorado and BLM’s headquarters here – an offer we hope she accepts soon, as the Interior will seek the advice of BLM employees on how to potentially rearranging the seat to improve its function.
We believe that creating a functioning headquarters in Grand Junction is better than the alternative: going back to DC and the well-established special interest lobbying environment, while creating even more impact for employees who have remained loyal to the agency through a difficult time – and are just beginning to enjoy the quality of life offered by a community dominated by federal lands.