BLM moves forward with relocating headquarters back to D.C.

The U.S. Departmental of the Interior is moving forward with plans to bring the Bureau of Land Management headquarters back to Washington, D.C., a year and a half after the previous administration relocated the agency’s center of operations from D.C. to Grand Junction, Colorado.

In August 2020, the agency’s headquarters was moved to Grand Junction, and other national positions were moved to other offices throughout the West in an effort to bring the agency’s leadership closer geographically to the majority of BLM-administered lands. In 2019, The Wildlife Society expressed concerns about the impending move and its potential impact to the BLM’s wildlife program and employees in a letter to the Department of the Interior and the BLM.

During the Trump administration, over 300 BLM positions were reassigned to either Grand Junction or other western states. Only 41 employees actually relocated—three moved to Grand Junction and 38 to other offices throughout the western U.S. The rest opted to retire or find new positions outside of the agency.

Now, according to information the BLM recently submitted to congressional leaders, which was obtained by E&E News, nearly 50 of the 300 relocated positions will be once again based in Washington, including the agency’s director and two deputy directors, along with eight other leadership positions. Over half of the positions moving back to D.C. lack a permanent staffer, including the division chief that oversees the agency’s wildlife program. The Grand Junction office will be renamed the Western Headquarters Office. The move is expected to cost $1.7 million over the next two years.

“This reestablishment of the D.C. headquarters will consolidate most of the BLM’s directorate leadership and long-standing headquarters functions to allow for better engagement with the department, Congress, other federal agencies, tribes and many stakeholders,” said BLM Director Tracy Stone-Manning in a recent email to BLM employees regarding the plan, obtained by E&E News. “In addition, the BLM western headquarters in Grand Junction will enable the Bureau to capitalize on the intrinsic benefits of having leadership in the West.”

Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland announced the plans to move the agency headquarters back to Washington, D.C., in September but had not provided further details on the move until now. In June, the Public Lands Foundation, a nonprofit organization, comprised mostly of former federal public land agency employees, released a position statement calling for the return of BLM’s headquarters functions to Washington, D.C.

Header Image: The BLM is moving forward with plans to relocate employees back to Washington, D.C. Credit: Bob Wick/BLM