Two stories arriving back-to-back at the end of this week are putting a considerable damper on celebrations over the impending move by the Bureau of Land Management from Washington, D.C. to Grand Junction, Colorado–a move hailed by Republicans for the shifting of fewer than thirty full-time jobs, while criticized as part of a plan to cripple the BLM to benefit of destructive land use interests like oil and gas drilling. CPR reported yesterday:
This fall, 27 top officials are slated to move to Grand Junction, while hundreds of others will be shifted from the nation’s capital to various posts across the West. Only a few BLM employees will remain in Washington.
[Elaine Zielinski, former BLM director in Arizona and Oregon] thinks this “dismantling” of the agency’s headquarters in unnecessary, as 97 percent of BLM employees are already based outside of Washington. She believes the 3 percent in the Capital are vital to explain issues to key decision makers and give the agency a consistent presence.
Without them, “You’re setting up the BLM for failure,” she said.
And then today in E&E News, fresh and heated opposition to the move from current BLM employees:
The Bureau of Land Management’s Washington, D.C.-based staff ripped into senior leaders during a closed-door meeting yesterday to discuss the proposal to relocate BLM’s headquarters to Colorado, expressing strong opposition to the move and frustration at the lack of information shared with them on the plan.
The more than hourlong meeting yesterday inside a packed conference room at BLM’s Washington headquarters featured some fiery responses from D.C. staffers aimed at William Perry Pendley, the bureau’s acting director, according to an audio recording of the meeting obtained by E&E News.
Not one of the more than 200 employees present expressed support for the move, exposing the true feelings of BLM’s Washington staff about the proposal announced in July and authorized by Interior Secretary David Bernhardt. Some employees wore black at the meeting as a show of protest. [Pols emphasis]
It’s not uncommon for calls for major or unpopular change in Washington to be led first by former officials instead of those currently serving, since former officials do not have the implicit (or in the case of the Trump administration, explicit as hell) threat of termination for rocking the boat hanging over their heads. This latest report that current agency employees are engaging in open rebellion as well marks a significant escalation in what may not be as done a deal as the recent announcement–and celebrations from Sen. Cory Gardner, who has planted the flag hard on this move as he campaigns for re-election–led everyone to believe.
The move of the BLM’s headquarters to Grand Junction might seem like it’s good for Colorado, but in the final analysis it could be much worse for everyone than it is incidentally any kind of plus for our state if it results in a powerless BLM. And that would be, we should all be able to agree, nothing to celebrate.