Hundreds of BLM positions to move west

By Laura Bies

BLM-managed McInnis Canyon National Recreation Area is just outside of Grand Junction, Colo., the agency’s new home. ©BLM

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt has announced plans to relocate the headquarters for the Bureau of Land Management to Grand Junction, Colo.

The department plans to relocate a majority of over 350 positions currently located in Washington, D.C. to either Grand Junction or other offices throughout the West. Only 61 of the more than 10,000 BLM employees would be left in D.C. According to the department, the move will save more than $50 million overall.

The director position, which is still lacking a Senate-confirmed appointee, will now be housed in Grand Junction, as will several positions each from various divisions, including resources and planning, communications and energy, minerals and realty management. There is currently a BLM field office in Grand Junction, but the new headquarters will be separate from that office.

The 27 D.C.-based BLM staffers in positions being relocated to the new headquarters have until Aug. 15 to decide whether to relocate or to leave their positions. Employees who decline to relocate will receive assistance from BLM in finding a new job, either within the agency or in another one.

Over the next approximately 15 months, an additional 222 employees from D.C. will be relocated to various BLM state offices, although their nation-wide duties and reporting structure will remain the same. The rangeland management program will move to Idaho, while the wildlife staff will be relocated to Salt Lake City. Employees in dozens of other D.C.-based positions will be reassigned to state office and their duties readjusted.

The move to relocate BLM is part of the larger effort started by former Secretary Ryan Zinke to reorganize the Department of the Interior in 2017. Congress appropriated Interior $14 million for the reorganization effort in its fiscal year 2019 budget, with $5.6 million of that amount allocated to the BLM realignment. The president’s budget proposal for FY 2020 included $27.6 million in funding for the reorganization, but the House bill did not include any funding for the effort. The Senate has not yet passed its Interior appropriations bill for FY 2020.

Some members of Congress have expressed concern about the move in recent weeks, which could lead to delays in rolling out the plan or even a refusal by Congress to appropriate any additional funding for the realignment.

Laura BiesLaura Bies is a government relations contractor and freelance writer for The Wildlife Society. She has a B.S. in Environmental Science and a law degree from George Washington University. Laura has worked with The Wildlife Society since 2005. Read more of Laura's articles.

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