Bureau of Land Management considers moving police to a western state

A BLM employee views a distant mountain range across a sagebrush range.

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado confirmed Monday that the Trump administration will seek to move the Bureau of Land Management headquarters to Grand Junction.

"Today is a historic day for our nation’s public lands, Western states and the people of Colorado,” Gardner said in a statement. “Relocating the Bureau of Land Management to the Western Slope of Colorado will bring the bureau’s decision-makers closer to the people they serve and the public lands they manage. The problem with Washington is too many policy-makers are far removed from the people they are there to serve."

Gardner added, "This is a victory for local communities, advocates for public lands, and proponents for a more responsible and accountable federal government.”

Last month Gov. Jared Polis had predicted BLM would choose Denver over Grand Junction, even though he said it was better from an economic development standpoint for the agency to go to the Western Slope. He cited Denver having more daily flights in and out.

“We are thrilled to welcome the Bureau of Land Management and their (sic) employees to the great state of Colorado," Polis said in a statement Monday afternoon, after Gardner's announcement.

"As I stated to Secretary Bernhardt many times, Grand Junction is the perfect location for the BLM because of community support, location closer to the land BLM manages, and the positive impact it will have on our western Colorado economy. Hard to think of a better place to house the department responsible for overseeing our beloved public lands.”

Gardner has been working on the move, along with U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado since the earliest days of the President Trump's term.

E&E News, a website that reports on energy and the environment, based in Washington, first reported Monday that BLM would officially make the announcement Tuesday.

RELATED: COVER STORY | Grand Junction shines as D.C. eyes new home for BLM

A spokeswoman for Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, a native of Rifle, did not immediately respond to a Colorado Politics' request for comment Monday.

E&E News said Interior officials expect the move to cost $5 million and take place by Oct. 1, the beginning of the next federal budget year, E&E News reported.

The Washington Post, however, said only about one-fifth of workforce, about 80 employees, would relocate to Colorado.

Spending of that much in next year's budget would have to receive congressional approval, and the Democrats who run the U.S. House aren't likely to hand Trump , or Gardner, such a Western win.

The proposal as been in the works for more than a year, with Grand Junction always as the most talked-about option among Western locations.

On a hike in Rocky Mountain National Park with Colorado Politics last August, former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke talked up the merits of Colorado as a location.

The idea is to get federal workers closer to the resources they manage and, in the process, save taxpayers money, Zinke said then.

RELATED: Interior's Bernhardt talks BLM's potential westward move in Colorado visit

BLM administers 245 million acres, almost all of it is in the western states, including 8.3 million acres in Colorado.

"We need to somehow find a way to put more resources on those front lines, and then organize it in a way that will best serve the American people," Bernhardt told Western governors last month in Vail.

In a meeting with Colorado Politics last year, Bernhardt said he would welcome to the chance to return to Colorado with his Interior position, though his wife, a government lawyer, might not be so keen on the idea.

U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton of Cortez called Monday "a great day" for Grand Junction, the Western Slope, and for every believer that the federal government should be closer to the people whom its decisions affect."

He cited Bernhardt's roots on the Western Slope.

"As a native of Colorado’s Third Congressional District, Sec. Bernhardt knows the lands well and I applaud his leadership on making this move a reality," Tipton stated. "I look forward to seeing the final plan and congratulate the community of Grand Junction for this great opportunity.”

The Denver-based Center for Western Priorities, an antagonist to the Trump administration on environmental policies, released a statement Monday critical of the move.

“Bringing jobs to a Western community like Grand Junction is a laudable goal, but this announcement is nothing but a PR stunt," executive director Jennifer Rokala said in a statement.

Moving the bureau leadership out of Washington, D.C., "would only turn the agency into an afterthought, rather than a core piece of the Interior Department," she stated.

Rokala added, “Instead of spending millions to shuffle office locations, the administration should be fixing critical infrastructure needs at our parks and public lands.”

The reorganization was part of Trump's agenda. He alluded to it early in his 2017 inauguration speech: "Washington flourished, but the people did not share in its wealth," the new president said at the time. "Politicians prospered, but the jobs left and the factories closed. The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories.

"Their triumphs have not been your triumphs. And while they celebrated in our nation’s capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land."

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