U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper, D-Colo., pushed his goal of keeping the Bureau of Land Management’s national headquarters in Grand Junction Friday in a meeting with the nominee to serve as the agency’s director.
Hickenlooper met with Tracy Stone-Manning ahead of her confirmation hearing next Tuesday before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, on which Hickenlooper sits.
Stone-Manning, a Montana resident, is senior adviser for conservation policy at the National Wildlife Federation. She spoke out in 2019 against the Trump administration’s decision to move the BLM’s headquarters to Grand Junction and relocate other headquarters jobs out west, calling it expensive, unnecessary, irresponsible, rushed and disorganized.
The new headquarters opened in January 2020. The Trump administration and other supporters of the move have said it put national BLM decisionmakers closer to the lands and communities their decisions affect. Some 40 jobs were moved to Grand Junction.
Critics say the move weakened the agency in part due to loss of numerous senior staff who refused to make the move.
The move to Grand Junction has bipartisan support in Colorado, including from U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Silt, and four prominent Democratic officeholders — Hickenlooper, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, Gov. Jared Polis and U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse, chairman of the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Land.
Supporters have been worried that the Biden administration might move the headquarters jobs back to Washington. Like Stone-Manning, new Interior Secretary Deb Haaland has been critical of the move of headquarters jobs to the West. But she has promised Hickenlooper to maintain an open dialogue about the issue and to visit the headquarters and city, and has said the Interior Department is moving carefully in looking into where the headquarters should be, with a commitment to treating employees with respect.
Hickenlooper’s office said in a news release Friday that he and Stone-Manning discussed Colorado priorities including the headquarters and restoring BLM’s commitment to protecting public lands.
“Tracy Stone-Manning values public lands as much as Coloradans do and has experience working with Western communities on responsible stewardship,” said Hickenlooper. “We discussed her vision for the agency and I’m confident she’ll give full consideration to the benefits of housing the BLM out West.”
Stone-Manning formerly was chief of staff for former Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat, and before that she served as director of the Montana Department of Environmental Quality. She also had worked for U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, and is a prior director of the Clark Fork Coalition, a Montana environmental organization.