Government watchdog to review BLM move to Colorado

PROMO Politics - US Capitol Washington DC Government - iStock - Muni Yogeshwaran
Published Thursday, December 12, 2019

By Derek Draplin | The Center Square

Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee said Wednesday that a government watchdog has agreed to review the Trump administration's plans to move the U.S. Bureau of Land Management headquarters from the nation's capital to western Colorado.

U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., who chairs the House Natural Resources Committee, said in a news conference on Wednesday that the Government Accountability Office has agreed to review the bureau's planned move.

"This is a shameless attempt to destroy the Bureau of Land Management," Grijalva said of the relocation effort.

Grijalva cited the U.S. Agriculture Department's relocation from Washington, D.C. to Kansas City, Missouri, saying that move cause three-quarters of the agency to quit.

"This move is not being made in good faith," he added.

The U.S. Interior Department, which oversees the BLM, has been planning the headquarter move from Washington, D.C. to Grand Junction for months. The agency's employees in D.C. were given relocation notices last month and they have until Thursday to decide if they will relocate.

The Trump administration says the move makes sense because it will make the BLM, which manages over 245 million acres of federal land that's mostly out west, closer to the land it manages.  

Democrats and some environmental groups say the move is meant to intentionally dismantle the bureau and will lead to "brain drain," since a significant number of the bureaucrats in D.C. aren't expected to relocate. 

Grijalva also said his committee hasn't received a budget or plan for the move, which prompted him to request a GAO review.

U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, D-New Mexico, said the move will "make it easier for this administration to sell off our public lands to the highest bidder."

In an emailed response, BLM said it is committed to working through the process with the committee.

"We have produced multiple letters and documents responsive to Chairman Grijalva's request and will continue our rolling production as we are able," BLM said. "We will accommodate any additional oversight on the process used to determine the need to relocate the Bureau of Land Management's Headquarters to the West, where 99 percent of our mission lies and where 97 percent of our workforce is. Having the people who make critical decisions about the lands and programs we manage located where those lands and programs actually are located will help provide a greater on-the-ground understanding and will also foster better partnerships with communities and organizations there."

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