As the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Charles Ashby reports:
A Montana group filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday to force the Department of the Interior to release public documents related to its decision to relocate the Bureau of Land Management to Grand Junction and several other western states.
The Whitefish, Montana-based Western Values Project filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to release information under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act for details about the department’s plan to relocate the BLM out of Washington, D.C…
Like the project, some groups — including dozens of retired BLM workers — have said they believe the BLM is being systemically dismantled to open the door for private interests to take over public lands. [Pols emphasis]
From the Western Values Project’s press release yesterday announcing the suit:
WVP filed several FOIA requests shortly after Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Interior announced the relocation of BLM headquarters to Grand Junction, Colorado. FOIA laws require agencies to respond within 20 working days of a request. The Interior Department requested and was granted a 10-workday extension on two of the requests, which has since lapsed. WVP is seeking public documents related to the BLM’s relocation from Interior, General Services Administration, Office of Budget and Management, and the BLM itself.
Last week, Acting BLM Director and known anti-public lands zealot William Pendley was grilled in front of the House Natural Resources Committee on the relocation but could offer little more than generalities and platitudes, reaffirming that the Trump Administration’s relocation plan is a not-so-veiled attempt to hand over public lands to their special interest allies…
The proposed BLM HQ move has been widely criticized for lacking a purpose since the vast majority of BLM staff are already based in the states. Reorganizing the BLM is seen by members of Congress as part of a larger effort to appease special interests by skirting government accountability efforts. The move has also been called into question by former BLM career public servants and the Western Governors Association, who believe it is a not-so-veiled attempt to transfer public lands to states, a precursor to selling them to private interests. Recently, Trump’s Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney admitted that the intent of relocating federal employees was to force them to quit. [Pols emphasis]
It’s entirely possible that the Interior Department under Rifle-born oil and gas lawyer David Bernhardt is stonewalling the release of records related to this move because the records will reveal more overwhelming dissent from Bureau of Land Management employees–whose complaints that the move is intended to weaken the BLM instead of strengthen it are echoed by environmental groups across the country. Sen. Cory Gardner’s initial celebration of this move, which found some knee-jerk support from local boosters, has given way to angry defensiveness from Gardner as it became obvious that this relocation was nothing for anyone except the BLM’s enemies to celebrate.
A Freedom of Information Act lawsuit is not intended to halt the BLM’s move to Grand Junction, of course, but the likely revelations of intense political pressure overcoming the judgment of experts and career public servants will add to the growing political toxicity of a move Sen. Gardner has staked a surprisingly large portion of his case for re-election on.
Whatever happens next, politically speaking the jig is increasingly up. There will be no “BLM bounce” for Cory Gardner–and for America’s Most Vulnerable Senator™, that’s bad news he doesn’t need.