As Denver7’s Blair Miller reported on Friday and we of course must acknowledge in this space, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland has made the decision to unwind the controversial and still-unrealized move of the headquarters of the Bureau of Land Management from Washington, D.C. to Grand Junction, Colorado:
The headquarters of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management will no longer be based in Grand Junction, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said Friday.
The BLM moved the headquarters to Grand Junction in 2019 during the Trump administration. According to a news release from the Interior Department, the main headquarters will move back to Washington, D.C., while Grand Junction will serve as its Western bureau and would be expanded…
Although local Republicans immediately cried betrayal and commenced slamming every local Democrat they could fit into a press release, the hard reality is that the move of the BLM to Grand Junction, two years after it was announced, has basically occurred in name only:
Out of 328 positions that moved out of the D.C. headquarters, only 41 people relocated and just three moved to Grand Junction, the department said. [Pols emphasis]
“This led to a significant loss of institutional memory and talent. The headquarters transition will be conducted with a goal of minimizing further disruption to employees and their families,” the department said in the news release.
Since this move was announced by the Trump administration in 2019, the response from qualified experts on the mission of the BLM as well as the overwhelming opinion of career professionals at the Bureau was negative. Far from an attempt to make the BLM “more responsive” to the needs of Western public lands stakeholders, the move was broadly perceived as a deliberate attempt to weaken the agency in favor of the extractive industries who want to drill and mine on public lands.
During the Trump administration and with Sen. Cory Gardner eagerly promoting the move of the BLM as part of his failed bid for re-election, it was easier to ignore the fact that most local Democrats were in support of the move as well. Although Colorado Democrats were always in the minority of their party on this question, we are naturally more forgiving of local boosterism than others might be. With that said, the same arguments that applied against the wisdom of this move when Cory Gardner was pushing it still must.
In the end, the consolation prize of a “Western headquarters” for the BLM could fulfill and even exceed the promises made to Colorado regarding jobs created for the local economy. That’s why even Rep. Lauren Boebert showed a minimal degree of restraint in her response to the announcement–Boebert’s official response, that is, not her firebreathing Tweets:
“…While I’m disappointed with today’s decision and the details are light, this could ultimately be a win for Grand Junction and the West [Pols emphasis] as a western headquarters will remain in Grand Junction, more jobs will move to Grand Junction, and all the jobs that moved out West won’t be moved back to D.C.”
Take note for the record: Rep. Lauren Boebert said this decision “could ultimately be a win.”
For all of these reasons, we’re not foreseeing long-term political fallout from this decision for local Democrats. Objectively speaking it’s the end of an error, and Colorado was even then left with something tangible to show for our efforts.