Secretary Haaland Accepts Rep. Boebert’s Invitation to Visit Grand Junction Bureau of Land Management Headquarters
Today, Rep. Boebert, joined a bipartisan roundtable with local stakeholders, Governor Jared Polis, Congressman Joe Neguse, and Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper to advocate that Interior Secretary Haaland listen to Western stakeholders and keep the Bureau of Land Management headquarters in Grand Junction.
Rep. Boebert stated: I was honored to welcome Secretary Haaland to Colorado’s Third Congressional District and was pleased she accepted my invitation to visit the Bureau of Land Management headquarters in Grand Junction. We also discussed the urgent need to address growing forest fires through active management and effective suppression. Community stakeholders made a great case for keeping the Bureau’s headquarters in Grand Junction and for doing more to combat catastrophic wildfires before they get started. I couldn’t be more proud. I hope she listens to the ranchers, county commissioners, sheriffs, farmers, hunters, hikers, off-roaders, and other outdoor recreation enthusiasts who have benefited from the agency’s move West. Westerners deserve a voice in the land-use decisions that affect their daily lives, and it would be wrong to move the Bureau back to a faceless marble building in D.C. Since 99% of the lands that the Bureau manages are West of the Mississippi, it only makes sense to keep the agency located near the communities it serves. While some have tried to politicize the Bureau’s move to Grand Junction because they detest anything associated with the previous administration, the facts are clear: moving the headquarters to this great community has always had broad bipartisan and bicameral support.”
Ranking Member of the House Committee on Natural Resources, Congressman Bruce Westerman stated: “Government agencies exist to serve the American people and need to be constantly engaged with the communities under their jurisdiction. Moving BLM headquarters out West was a strategic choice, allowing them to better interact with the people they represent. For this administration to use BLM as a political yo-yo would be expensive, irresponsible and short-sighted. I fully support the organization staying headquartered in Colorado.”
The Bureau of Land Management headquarters was established in Grand Junction in August of 2020 after a competitive process to select the new location. Grand Junction was chosen because of its substantial cost savings, travel accessibility, quality of life attributes, and increased representation among the communities affected by land management decisions. Since its opening, the headquarters has proven to be an overwhelming success for rural Colorado, taxpayers, federal employees, the Bureau of Land Management, and communities impacted by land management decisions.
99 percent of the 245 million acres managed by the Bureau of Land Management are in the West, so it only makes sense that the agency’s headquarters should be near its field offices and near the people its decisions affect. Since its opening, the headquarters’ western location has allowed diverse constituencies to have a voice in land management decisions, and Western stakeholders like sheriffs, ranchers, and county commissioners who would never have traveled to Washington D.C. for a meeting have already found their way to Grand Junction to meet with senior leadership.
The move has already started to benefit taxpayers. The agency estimates it will save more than $2 million in fiscal year 2021 in lease costs and $1.9 million in salary savings annually based on locality pay. The Department of the Interior has also reported that it saved $1.9 million on travel costs in fiscal year 2020.
The establishment of the headquarters in Grand Junction has reduced the number of long cross-country flights and travel costs, improved training, delegated more responsibility to employees in the field, increased operating hours due to proximity of time zones, improved customer service and coordination with local communities, ensured better decisions earlier in the decision-making process, reduced commute times for employees, and provided good-paying local jobs.
Any misguided effort to move the Bureau back to D.C. would have significant costs. The initial move West cost taxpayers approximately $18 million and any move back would cost at least that and more. Furthermore, there is no identified location to move them back to as the M Street location no longer exists.
Land management decisions are best made by the people who live, work, and raise their families on or near public lands and that are invested in local communities. Many Bureau employees excitedly made the move, grateful to escape the swamp and to experience many of the issues firsthand that they had been working on for years. Several have done interviews and gone on the record to make clear that this is where they want to be, and that they don’t want to live or work in Washington D.C. It is rewarding for Bureau employees to be able to have access to the types of recreation activities available on the public lands they manage like hiking, hunting, fishing, snowmobiling, skiing, off-roading, climbing, and wildlife viewing.
Additionally, as a result of the Bureau’s move West, it received an overwhelming number of job applications from Westerners with expertise in public lands management. The resulting expansion of the Bureau of Land Management’s talent pool is already improving public land management decisions and helping the agency serve its constituency effectively.
The Bureau’s move West was flawlessly executed by senior leadership and dedicated career staff, and not one federal employee was removed as a result of the agency’s move West. The Department of the Interior found jobs for people that wanted to stay in D.C. and paid expenses to help employees make the move West. The Bureau’s move West also successfully avoided any Equal Employment Opportunity or U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board complaints, legal challenges, or adverse union activities.
The local Mesa County community gave the Bureau a warm welcome and created a Relocation Task Force to ensure an easy transition for all employees and their families. Task force services included pre-move visits to provide a single point of contact and provide information, a real estate team to help locate housing, and a school placement team to ensure the best education options were available including charter schools.
Colorado has already benefitted immensely from the move West by having more than 80 Bureau employees assigned to our state, including more than 40 in Grand Junction that are estimated to provide $11 million in annual economic benefits. Additionally, more than 300 other positions are now assigned out West as a result of the relocation.
Due to the benefits of the Bureau of Land Management’s move to Grand Junction, Rep. Boebert introduced the Local Opportunities and Conserving America’s Lands (LOCAL) Act to keep the agency’s headquarters out West. Additionally, the LOCAL Act directs the Department of the Interior to explore moving other land management positions to the West.
Despite the radical left’s efforts to politicize the agency’s move West, it has always had bipartisan and bicameral support. Rep. Boebert has previously joined bipartisan roundtables with Governor Polis, and Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper highlighting the benefits of the agency’s move West.
Rep. Boebert also discussed her forestry bill designed to prevent wildfires at a press conference following a tour of the Grand Junction Air Center Dispatch and Airtanker Base. In 2020, the U.S. set a record as 57,000 wildfires burned over 10.3 million acres. From 2015 to 2020, the Department of Interior and Department of Agriculture spent $14.1 billion of taxpayer money on fire suppression alone. That staggering figure does not include cleanup costs or the rebuilding efforts for families who lost everything they owned. Rep. Boebert’s District has already experienced five large wildfires this year, but wildfires do not have to be the norm.
Rep. Boebert’s Active Forest Management, Wildfire Prevention, and Community Protection Act provides solutions for rural Colorado and shifts the focus from accepting wildfires as inevitable to taking action to stop them and reduce their destruction. Rep. Boebert’s active forest management bill will reduce the severity of wildfires and help prevent them in numerous ways including:
- Requiring the Forest Service to harvest a minimum of 6 billion board feet per year.
- Removing trees killed by bark beetles through a program that is fully paid for and will generate billions of dollars for the U.S. Treasury.
- Ensuring 25% of the revenues from responsible timber harvests is provided to impacted counties.
- Authorizing hazardous fuels reduction and forest health projects in high-risk areas.
- Authorizing vegetative management and allowing responsible tree removal within 500 feet of powerlines.
- Reforming costly litigation processes used to halt responsible forest thinning.