Biden moves BLM brass back to Washington
Press editorial 9/24/21
Last week Interior Secretary Deb
Haaland announced that the Bureau of Land Management is
moving back to Washington, D.C., from Grand Junction, Colo.
Score one for the bureaucracy against
the people it allegedly serves.
Ninety-nine percent of the 250 million
acres managed by the BLM is West of the Mississippi River.
Its decisions impact the livelihoods of people who populate
rural communities but those decisions are made far from the
forests, grasslands and high deserts they call home.
To those people, a headquarters staff
ensconced 1,900 miles away in the nation’s capital seemed
remote. Its decisions often did little to dispel that
Members of Congress from the West,
both Republicans and Democrats, have long advocated moving
BLM headquarters out of Washington and into the same
neighborhood of those huge swaths of public lands the agency
manages. Other interests in the West agreed.
The logic was simple: If BLM managers
actually lived in the West and had a relationship with the
land they managed, their decisions might be informed by
The bureaucrats and the lobbying
interests never warmed up to the idea. Critics maintain the
BLM and other agencies need to be headquartered in the
capital to be included in budget and policy discussions. But
having all those discussions in Washington is part of the
problem. That’s better for K Street lobbyists and the
environmental special interests, but not so good for the
people those policies impact.
In 2018, a bipartisan group of
senators and members of Congress from the West formally
proposed moving BLM’s headquarters. During the Trump
administration they got an ally in then Secretary of
Interior Ryan Zinke, a Montanan.
The Trump administration decided to
move the headquarters under its own authority. The
headquarters relocated to Grand Junction in August 2019.
Most of the career BLM employees
decided not to make the move, opting instead for retirement
or to transfer to other government agencies or departments.
In total, the agency lost 287 of the 328 employees scheduled
to make the move.
We appreciate the difficult position
such a move placed on BLM employees. Moving families is
always difficult. In Washington, many households have more
than one spouse employed in government.
But government is established to serve
the people, not the interests of government employees.
Military families know well that service often requires the
disruption of personal lives.
We think decision makers can best
serve when they are among the governed, where they can see
first-hand the problems and the impacts of policy. Too often
those in the Washington bubble look inward rather than
The Biden administration opposed the
move, and its review unsurprisingly recommended returning
the top brass to Washington.
Interior will keep the Grand Junction
facility open as its permanent western headquarters, a bone
to the Democrat Colorado congressional delegation. But the
agency’s decisions will be firmly rooted in Washington.
Government of the bureaucrats, by the
bureaucrats, for the bureaucrats shall not perish from the
earth — not without a fight.
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