Undercurrent

BLM leadership will return to D.C.

By: - December 14, 2021 3:07 pm
BLM Grand Junction office building

This office building in Grand Junction, Colo., has been the national the headquarters for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management since August 2020. Other existing tenants in the building include Chevron, and the Colorado Oil and Gas Association. (Photo: BLM)

The Bureau of Land Management Tuesday announced plans to relocate senior leadership positions from its former Grand Junction, Colo., national headquarters back to Washington, D.C.

The deputy director for operations will head back to Washington, D.C., joining BLM Director Tracy Stone-Manning and the deputy director for policy and programs, who are already based in the nation’s capital.

Most assistant directors and deputy assistant directors, eight in all, will also return to D.C., along with 30 vacant senior positions. About 100 positions in total will be based in D.C, according to The Hill, which first broke the news.

But, as part of the agency’s commitment to keeping a stronger presence in Colorado, the National Conservation Lands and Community Partnerships assistant director and deputy assistant director will “anchor” the Colorado office. A total of 36 jobs will stay in Grand Junction, said The Hill.

The agency has not decided on the best locations for other vacant HQ positions and are reevaluating where to place positions “that were moved and scattered across the West in 2019,” said Stone Manning in an email.

The move is a reverse of a controversial Trump-era move to send leadership from the capital to Grand Junction, Colorado. 

Critics said the effort would gut the agency by diminishing its influence in the nation’s capital and forcing out experienced career staff who worked there, instead placing them near the influence of oil and gas companies and industry lobbyists.

Nevada was slated to gain 32 positions and authority to hire another 17 additional positions for the BLM state office, but those jobs failed to materialize after federal workers refused to move and chose to leave the federal workforce instead.

A scathing analysis of the move from the Government Accountability Office — a nonpartisan, independent congressional research agency — found that the move caused at least half of the employees designated to move west to leave the agency.

The report concludes that BLM has failed to justify the move. Of the 311 positions slated to move west, 132 were already vacant before the reorganization was announced, according to the GAO’s analysis of BLM data. That left 179 staff who needed to relocate. Only 90 of them accepted their reassignments.

Conservationists and elected Democrats in Nevada, including Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, widely panned the Trump administration’s decision, first announced in July 2019 and completed last August, to move the BLM headquarters to Grand Junction.

Nevada Democratic Rep. Susie Lee called the loss of staff after the move a “significant loss of institutional memory and experience.”

BLM manages nearly 50 million acres in Nevada, roughly two-thirds of the land in the state. Lee said the issue was “incredibly important” to Nevada and called the bureau “the gatekeeper for any type of land-use decisions.”

Conservationists praised the move to return senior leadership to D.C.

“I’m encouraged to see the Bureau of Land Management moving so quickly to reverse the damage caused by the Trump administration,” said Jennifer Rokala, executive director for the Center for Western Priorities. “Our nation’s public lands need strong leadership at the table in Washington, so there’s not a minute to waste rebuilding the Bureau of Land Management at Interior headquarters.”

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Jeniffer Solis
Jeniffer Solis

Reporter | Jeniffer was born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada where she attended the University of Nevada, Las Vegas before graduating in 2017 with a B.A in Journalism and Media Studies. While at UNLV she was a senior staff writer for the student newspaper, the UNLV Scarlet and Gray Free Press, and a news reporter for KUNV 91.5 FM, covering everything from the Route 91 shooting to UNLV housing. She has also contributed to the UNLV News Center and worked as a production engineer for several KUNV broadcasts before joining the Nevada Current. She’s an Aries.

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