BLM headquarters moving back to D.C.

The Bureau of Land Management’s headquarters will be moving back to Washington, D.C., Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland announced to agency staff last week.

In August 2020, the agency’s headquarters was moved from Washington, D.C. to Grand Junction, Colorado, in an effort by the previous administration to bring the agency’s leadership closer geographically to the majority of BLM lands. In 2019, The Wildlife Society expressed concerns in a letter about this move and its potential impact to the BLM’s wildlife program and employees.

Before last year’s move, aporoximately 97% of BLM staff positions were already located in the western United States. The previous administration’s plan called for an additional 328 employees to relocate from Washington, D.C. to Grand Junction and other offices in the West—but only about 40 did so. Others opted to retire or find new positions. The BLM director, deputy and assistant directors overseeing major agency programs were assigned to Grand Junction, along with other positions. Now, at least some of those positions will be moving back to Washington, D.C.

“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,” stated Haaland in the announcement. “In addition, the BLM’s robust presence in Colorado and across the West will continue to grow,”

Few details are available regarding the timing of the move back to D.C. or which staff will be affected. Secretary Haaland indicated that more information will be available in coming weeks and months.

The Grand Junction office will now become a regional hub, serving as the “official western headquarters” for the agency, with Haaland indicating the office could expand.

The Department of the Interior has been considering moving the agency’s headquarters back east for several months. All BLM staff recently received a questionnaire earlier this summer, aimed at gathering their input on a possible move back to Washington. Colorado’s congressional delegation had been pressuring Haaland to keep the headquarters in their state and recently visited the site accompanied by the state’s federal delegation.

The BLM does not yet have a new director. President Biden nominated Tracy Stone-Manning, currently employed at the National Wildlife Federation, to lead the BLM on April 22, but the Senate has not yet acted on that nomination.

Header Image: The BLM headquarters office will move back to Washington, D.C., after just more than a year in Colorado. Credit: BLM Colorado