US Bureau of Land Management is returning to Washington, DC, reversing a Trump administration decision

·4 min read
Deb Haaland
Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland departs the stage after delivering remarks at an event commemorating the delivery of the Red Road Totem Pole to the Biden Administration in Washington, DC, on on July 29, 2021. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland departs the stage after delivering remarks at an event commemorating the delivery of the Red Road Totem Pole to the Biden Administration in Washington, DC, on on July 29, 2021.
  • Secretary Haaland announced that the Bureau of Land Management headquarters will move back to DC.

  • The Colorado office will remain open and become the agency's Western headquarters.

  • The agency was moved to Colorado by the Trump administration in a widely-criticized move.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Interior secretary Deb Haaland on Friday announced that the national headquarters of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will move back to Washington, DC, after it was relocated to Colorado, a reversal of a move by former President Donald Trump's administration to place the public lands agency in the critical Western region.

The bureau, which oversees nearly one-fifth of public lands in the US and has more than 7,000 employees, is recalibrating after losing nearly 300 employees to retirement or resignation after its headquarters was shifted to Grand Junction in 2019.

Haaland, a former New Mexico congresswoman and the first Native American Cabinet secretary, said that the Colorado office would be overhauled to become the agency's Western headquarters.

"The Bureau of Land Management is critical to the nation's efforts to address the climate crisis, expand public access to our public lands, and preserve our nation's shared outdoor heritage. It is imperative that the bureau have the appropriate structure and resources to serve the American public," she said. "There's no doubt that the BLM should have a leadership presence in Washington, DC - like all the other land management agencies - to ensure that it has access to the policy-, budget-, and decision-making levers to best carry out its mission."

The Colorado office will expand and strengthen Western perspectives in its overall mission, especially as it relates to clean energy, conservation, and scientific missions.

According to data released by the Biden administration, about 87 percent of BLM staffers departed the agency when the Trump administration put in motion the move to the Centennial State.

Critics of the previous administration's decision allege that the relocation was intended to push out longtime employees and stifle the agency.

In her comments, Haaland acknowledged that the earlier move created untenable situations for agency employees.

"The past several years have been incredibly disruptive to the organization, to our public servants, and to their families," she said. "As we move forward, my priority is to revitalize and rebuild the BLM so that it can meet the pressing challenges of our time, and to look out for our employees' well-being."

She added: "I look forward to continuing to work with Congress, Tribes, elected officials and the many stakeholders who care about the stewardship of our shared public lands and healthy communities."

Ryan Zinke, a former Montana congressman and Trump's first interior secretary, set the stage for the move to Colorado, emphasizing during his tenure that officials should be closer to the vast public lands that fall under the agency's purview. The relocation was finalized under David Bernhardt, who succeeded Zinke in 2019.

While many progressives applauded the move back to the nation's Capitol, Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado lamented the decision while remaining optimistic about the beefed up Western presence.

"While I am disappointed that the national headquarters will be in Washington, I believe establishing and growing a permanent BLM Western Headquarters in Grand Junction should be a very positive development," he said in a statement. "In the coming months, I will hold the Administration accountable to ensure that the BLM Western Headquarters is permanent, fully staffed, and informed by the voices of the Rocky Mountain West - after the last administration failed to deliver on that promise."

However, GOP Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming blasted the decision.

"The Biden administration's answer for everything is to double the size of government," he said. "The Bureau of Land Management doesn't need two headquarters. The single headquarters of the Bureau of Land Management belongs in the West, closer to the resources it manages and the people it serves."

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