Our View: BLM move is a mixed bag for the state, nation
Earlier this summer when the U.S. Department of the Interior announced its plan to relocate the headquarters of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management from Washington, D.C., to Grand Junction, Colorado politicians on both sides of the aisle applauded.
“Grand Junction is the perfect location for the BLM because of community support, a location closer to the land BLM manages and the positive impact it will have on our western Colorado economy,” said Gov. Jared Polis. “Hard to think of a better place to house the department responsible for overseeing our beloved public lands.”
Sen. Cory Gardner, described as the architect of the planned move, was equally effusive in his remarks.
“This is a smart decision that transcends political parties and will generate a positive economic ripple effect through the state of Colorado. I commend the Department of Interior for relocating the agency closer to the people it serves and the public lands it manages,” he said.
It’s hard to argue with the assertion that government works better and is more accountable when it is located closer to the people it serves. As Coloradans, it’s also hard to argue against the accounting for the move. It is expected to bring 85 new employees to the state including 27 positions in Grand Junction. The new Grand Junction office would include the director, deputy director and their attendant staff.
But what’s good for Colorado might not be great for the bigger picture of federal land management and environmental protection. The BLM has oversight for more than 247.3 million acres. It governs one-eighth of the country’s landmass.
Congress has tasked the BLM with managing those lands for various uses including recreation, livestock grazing, timber management and energy development. To achieve some of those goals, the BLM needs federal funding, so we can’t help but wonder if moving the BLM headquarters out of Washington, D.C., will have “out of sight, out of mind” consequences for the agency at budget time.
Those concerns were only heightened two weeks ago when the Interior Department named William Perry Pendley, a lawyer who has voiced support for the idea selling off millions of acres of federal lands to western states, to lead the BLM. Taken together, the two moves smell like an effort to minimize the influence of the BLM and backtrack decades of environmental work.
Much of western Eagle County is BLM land, including the Hardscrabble Special Recreation area, the State Bridge Recreation Site, the Wolcott Campground, the Bocco Mountain Trailhead, the Deep Creek camping area, the Lyons Gulch Boat Launch, the Cottonwood Island boat ramp and picnic site, the Gypsum Hills Recreation Area and several other sites.
Like most things in life, moving the BLM executive offices to western Colorado is a mixed bag. The state would definitely benefit from the action, but if the federal agency’s work and influence are diminished, would those local gains be worth the cost?
The Vail Daily Editorial Board is Publisher Mark Wurzer, Editor Nate Peterson, Assistant Editor Ross Leonhart, Eagle Valley Enterprise Editor Pam Boyd, Special Projects Director Edward Stoner, Business Editor Scott Miller and Ad Director Holli Snyder.