The Interior Department is continuing to pursue the idea of moving the Bureau of Land Management's headquarters out west.
"We're developing a business case for moving BLM west," Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said Thursday during his Senate confirmation hearing on his Interior secretary nomination.
He was responding to a request by U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo. for an update on the relocation plans.
Gardner reminded Bernhardt of the longtime push the senator has been making to get the BLM to make such a move. Gardner said that effort has grown into a bipartisan push in Colorado to have the headquarters moved to the state, and more specifically, Grand Junction.
"If you want a street address I can provide that," Gardner joked.
Last summer a senior adviser to then-Secretary Ryan Zinke told Gardner in a Senate committee hearing that Zinke "absolutely" intended to move the BLM headquarters to the West.
The Interior Department has been considering a broad-based reorganization that would involve the creation of 12 watershed-based management regions.
A frequently-asked-questions link for employees about the reorganization plans on the Interior website says no decision has been finalized on moving headquarters of any bureaus west. But the link says several bureaus are considering the viability of such a move, and an evaluation is being conducted into which cities would be candidates for potential bureau headquarters.
"The relocation process will occur over several years," the link says.
Bernhardt told Gardner, "We've just submitted our budget for 2020 which contemplates a (BLM) move west, and we'll be visiting with you and other members to hopefully move west."
That budget requests more than $60 million to support implementation of the regional reorganization, relocation of some headquarters staff and functions, and modernization of Interior administrative services, a budget justification document says.
Bernhardt cited potential benefits such as allowing officials to get to locations more easily, with shorter flights.
"And frankly the quality of life of our employees will be fantastic too, so there's a lot of reasons to think about it and we're trying it," he said.
Gardner maintains that BLM headquarters employees shouldn't live in the Washington, D.C., area, but west of the Mississippi River, where they would be more familiar with the lands they manage and better able to see the impacts of the decisions they make.