Moore: Hit the brakes on dismantling BLM
Special to the Daily
You may not know it, but you own a big chunk of the West — 245 million acres, in fact.
They are the public lands, owned by all Americans and cared for by the Bureau of Land Management, an agency in the Department of the Interior.
They’re valuable lands. They provide places for recreation, sources of energy, rangeland for livestock grazing, and habitat for thousands of species of plants and wildlife. The land ranges in character from desert canyonlands in the Southwest to Arctic tundra in Alaska. There is no comparable system of public land ownership in the world.
In Colorado, the BLM manages over 8 million acres or 12 percent of the land. Public land is vital to those in our state who love the outdoors and those who depend on the land for their living. Sadly, it’s a system heading in the wrong direction.
Politically appointed leaders in the DOI are quietly dismantling the agency’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. These DOI officials have launched a reorganization plan to relocate the BLM headquarters from Washington, D.C., to several western states, including Colorado, affecting much of the career leadership and senior professional staff. This is being done with no public comment, no financial analysis, and no input from agency employees.
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More than 150 people who work in Washington, D.C., have received notice that their jobs will be relocated in scattered western locations, including Grand Junction and Denver, over the next few months. The choice for these employees is stark: Accept the reassignment or be terminated.
These are seasoned veterans who know the western issues and work with the political leaders in Congress, at the Office of Management and Budget, in the DOI, and other agencies to develop policy, budgets, regulations, and procedures that work for the west. The intention of DOI Secretary David Bernhardt seems clear: eliminate the Headquarters of BLM so policies and decisions can be made by the DOI with no input from the public or professional scientists and managers.
What is the rationale? Secretary Bernhardt says the headquarters staff should be located in the West to be near the people most affected by decisions. That overlooks the fact that 97 percent of BLM employees already work in western states, and that all land-use decisions are prepared, approved and put into practice at the local level.
In Colorado, BLM is attuned to local needs and customs with offices and employees in 12 different communities. We need the remaining 3% of employees in our nation’s Capitol to work with those that make the political decisions so they are good for the West. For example, BLM managers and staff in Colorado are supported by the professional staff in Washington D.C. to help resolve technical, regulatory, legislative, policy, and budget issues enabling them to work together with the various constituents throughout the state to reach the most equitable natural resource management decisions.
As the BLM state director in Colorado for five years, in both Republican and Democratic administrations, I recognize the critical importance of having a strong professional staff presence in the nation’s Capitol. Their jobs require coordination with other federal agencies, Congress, and stakeholders in Washington, D.C.; something is not easily done from across the continent.
A consequence of the proposed move will be that more public land-use decisions will be made by politically appointed officials within the Office of the Secretary, without the benefit of input and advice from experienced BLM resource managers and senior policy specialists in Washington, D.C.
The threat posed by this dismantling of BLM’s headquarters is real and the consequences will be devastating, and perhaps, irreversible.
Please speak up and let your Congressional representatives, some of whom have touted this dismantling as good for Colorado, know it must be halted before it’s too late. Ask Congress to eliminate funding for this unfortunate effort.
You have 245 million reasons to get involved. These are your lands. Let’s work together to manage these lands in the public interest.
Bob Moore had a 40-year career with BLM and retired as the Colorado State Director in 1995.