U.S. Land Agency Headquarters to Be Moved Out of Washington

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(Bloomberg) -- The Interior Department is moving the headquarters of the division that oversees the nation’s public lands out of Washington to Grand Junction, Colorado, one of the state’s senators, Republican Cory Gardner, said Monday.

Proponents of relocating the Bureau of Land Management’s headquarters, which manages about 245 million acres of public land, say they want more of the agency’s employees closer to the land it oversees. Critics say the effort will take leaders away from the front lines of where policies and budgets are determined.

“It’s a nice talking point you say they are moving bureaucrats to the West, but one of the things to keep in mind is that 95 percent of BLM employees are already in the West,” said Kate Kelly, a former Interior staffer who now works at the liberal Center for American Progress. “They are solving a problem that isn’t there.”

The Interior Department didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Relocating the agency, which plays a key role in permitting oil, gas, logging, and coal development on public land, was a crucial part of an Interior Department reorganization plan proposed by former Secretary Ryan Zinke. The agency examined sites in Ogden, Utah, and Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The agency is expected to officially announce on Tuesday the decision to relocate the headquarters to Grand Junction, which is about 280 miles west of Denver, according to E&E News, which earlier reported on the decision. Secretary David Bernhardt is from Rifle, Colorado.

“Relocating the Bureau of Land Management to the Western Slope of Colorado will bring the bureau’s decision makers closer to the people they serve and the public lands they manage,” Gardner, who is up for re-election in 2020, said in a statement. “The problem with Washington is too many policy makers are far removed from the people they are there to serve.”

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