BLM base may move west

Grand Junction 'natural geographic choice' for agency headquarters, Sen. Gardner says

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner takes a question Saturday from Tricia Joy of Montrose, right, about what she calls the Bureau of Land Management’s administrative overreach during Club 20’s spring meeting at Two Rivers Convention Center in Grand Junction.  At left is Nicolle McCown of Club 20, who was holding the microphone.

The idea of moving the headquarters of the Bureau of Land Management to Grand Junction drew applause Saturday from a Club 20 audience.

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., said the secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, was “very interested” in the idea, though Gardner commented that Zinke might want to move the agency to Montana, Zinke’s home state.

Gardner is crafting a bill that calls for the agency to move west to a location with access by air and highway, and in and among the lands administered by the bureau.

Grand Junction, though, isn’t called out specifically in the bill so far, only by its specifications, including its central location.

If not executed carefully, the idea could be appropriated by legislators from Utah, Wyoming or another Western state.

Gardner and U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo, addressed about 100 people at Two Rivers Convention Center during the spring meeting for the Western Slope lobbying and promotional organization.

Most bureau employees will be unaffected because about 600 of the bureau’s 3,000 employees work at the agency office in Washington, D.C., Gardner noted.

The agency manages 248.3 million acres, 248.2 million of which are west of the Mississippi River, well away from the agency’s headquarters.

“Why on earth should we have to buy a $600 plane ticket” to go to BLM headquarters on the Eastern Seaboard when it could be in Grand Junction, Gardner said.

Grand Junction, Gardner said, is a “natural geographic choice.”

Not everyone was convinced, though.

Club 20 member Harry Peroulis said he worried that placing the BLM headquarters in the lands the agency manages could “bring the fox to the henhouse. We need a good, healthy debate.”

Tipton, meanwhile, said the House is continuing work on a new health care measure aimed at giving individuals more flexibility and lower health insurance premiums while dealing with issues such as denial of coverage because of pre-existing conditions.

“We’re getting it right before moving forward,” Tipton said.

Gardner and Tipton both said they were working on preserving federal payments to counties with large amounts of federal lands in the payment-in-lieu-of-taxes program.

Gardner, who sits on a committee overseeing the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, said he will carefully watch nominations to the commission, which last year rejected the $7 billion Jordan Cove project.

Officials in northwest Colorado hope to sell natural gas from the Piceance Basin to Pacific Rim customers from export terminals at Jordan Cove in Oregon.

“I’ll make sure we have people in place who will support Jordan Cove,” Gardner said.


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