August 1, 2019
The Trump administration plans to relocate most of the Bureau of Land Management’s D.C. workforce to west of the Rockies, part of its broader push to shift power away from Washington and shrink the size of the federal government according to a July 15, 2019 Washington Post report.
The proposal to move roughly 300 employees from a key Interior Department agency — among them the majority of top managers — comes as Trump officials are forcibly reassigning career officials and upending operations across the federal government.
“The problem with Washington is too many policy makers are far removed from the people they are there to serve,” Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) said in a statement supporting the land agency’s move. “Ninety-nine percent of the land the BLM manages is West of the Mississippi River, and so should be the BLM headquarters.”
But opponents argue that abrupt decisions to relocate or reassign federal workers have not been justified by sufficient analysis, can disrupt families’ lives and already have cost the government valuable expertise. BLM has about 360 employees in Washington, many of them supervisors, with 95 percent of its 9,260 employees working in the field.
“If I wanted to dismantle an agency, this would be in my playbook,” said Steve Ellis, who retired as BLM’s deputy director in 2016 after nearly four decades in government service. In a phone interview he said that transferring so many employees out of Washington could complicate the agency’s relationship with Capitol Hill, budget officials and other federal entities. He noted that BLM dispatched all of its wildfire and aviation staff to Boise, Idaho, in the 1990s only to reestablish a wildland fire office in the District when lawmakers expected briefings after fires broke out in the West.
Interior’s plan for BLM proposes dispersing about 225 staffers who report to headquarters to states including Colorado, Nevada and Utah over time, while reassigning another 75 to the bureau’s state offices. The rest of employees would remain in Washington to work on issues such as the bureau’s budget, regulations and Freedom of Information Act requests.
Some of the BLM top employees slated for a job transfer will move to Grand Junction, Colo., according to three federal officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
What this means to you
The Department of the Interior appears to be moving the Bureau of Land Management offices out of D.C. to locations in the West. Grand Junction, CO is likely BLM’s new headquarters.