Western Officials Support Possible BLM, Federal Agency Relocation To Denver
by Michael Sandoval
Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) said the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) would receive a “warm welcome” should the Department of the Interior choose to relocate their office headquarters to Colorado starting in 2019.
E&E News reported this week that employee notes from a July 21 meeting between Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and U.S. Geological Survey officials indicated a potential shift of the three federal agencies to Denver.
“Denver will probably have the headquarters for BLM, FWS and BOR. Secretary [Zinke] says he should have gotten out to visit Denver sooner,” the meeting notes said.
“Colorado is home to many employees with the Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Reclamation,” Hickenlooper told Western Wire via email. “Their colleagues would receive a warm welcome should Sec. Zinke relocate the entire team to Colorado. It’s an ideal location and having them closer to the resources they manage makes good sense,” said Hickenlooper.
Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) called for the BLM to be moved to a Western state in January.
“Perhaps we could cure some agencies like the BLM of Potomac Fever by moving them out of Washington,” Gardner said during the January confirmation hearing for Zinke.
“I think there’s too much concentration of decision making in Washington already,” Hickenlooper said in March. “Part of the benefit of that would be more trust between the regulated industries and the local communities if they all knew who was doing the regulating.”
A few months later Gardner introduced legislation to relocate the BLM to a Western state. Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming were listed as potential host states.
“Moving BLM’s headquarters West is a commonsense solution that Coloradans from across the political spectrum support,” said the senator in a statement. “Ninety-nine percent of the nearly 250 million acres of land managed by BLM is West of the Mississippi River, and having the decision-makers present in the communities they impact will lead to better policy. Coloradans want more Colorado common sense from Washington and this proposal accomplishes that goal.”
Gardner recommended Grand Junction, Colo. as the “best place” for the BLM’s new home. Colorado Farm Bureau President, Don Shawcroft, and Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture, Don Brown, both expressed support for the broad goal of moving the agency to the West.
Upon hearing the news of a possible move for the three agencies on Tuesday, Rep. Scott Tipton’s (R-Colo.) office told Western Wire via email, “The Congressman believes that moving more of the people who make land management decisions out to the West is good policy.”
A decision to move the BLM office to the West, however, has not yet been made, according to Tipton’s communications director, Liz Payne.
Representing the state’s western third, Tipton introduced the House version of the bill, saying it would be “critical that land management decisions impacting the West are made by the people who know the land best.”
“Moving the BLM’s headquarters to a Western state would help ensure that federal agencies have a full understanding of the ways their decisions impact our families and communities,” Tipton said in a statement. “I am sure the people of Grand Junction would join me in inviting the BLM to the Western Slope, but a move of the headquarters to any Western city would be welcome news.”
Assistant Majority Leader Sen. Ray Scott (R-Grand Junction) supports Gardner’s efforts, and hopes they agencies will be relocated to the “heart of federal land,” he told Western Wire.
“I welcome any effort to move these agencies out of D.C. I do hope per Sen. Gardner’s efforts that BLM be moved to Grand Junction. Just as a move from DC puts Interior offices in the heart of federal land, Grand Junction and Mesa County is the epicenter of federal lands in Colorado,” Scott said.
Moving federal or state agencies to Colorado’s Western Slope, said Scott, “would be welcomed with open arms” as a way to “bolster our economy.”
Kit Lammers, communication manager for the City of Lakewood, home to the Denver Federal Center and thousands of federal employees, including BLM, told Western Wire that while the city has no involvement in a possible relocation of the three agencies, the city “will watch to see what happens like everyone else.”
Back in March, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock (D) both supported relocating BLM headquarters from Washington, D.C. to the West, and possibly to Colorado. “We’ll take ’em [BLM].”