The problem with Washington is too many decision makers are far removed from the people they serve — out of touch and out of contact with the millions of Americans who are impacted by the decisions and policies they make every day. We see this in Colorado where our 23 million acres of public land are overseen by several land management agencies, including the Bureau of Land Management, headquartered nearly 2,000 miles away in Washington, D.C.
For years I've pushed a common-sense idea that would benefit Colorado and our public lands: moving the Bureau of Land Management to a Western state and closer to the land it manages. After years of sustained pressure and raising the issue with Interior Department officials in the Obama administration and the Trump administration, I was thrilled to announce this week that the BLM's headquarters will soon relocate to Grand Junction.
This should be welcome news for every Coloradan. In addition to our public lands, Colorado's economy stands to benefit tremendously from the new BLM headquarters. One local official compared "getting the BLM to the Western Slope" to "Amazon going to Denver." The local economy in Colorado will receive an economic shot in the arm as new investments, events, and jobs come to the Centennial State.
When I first proposed the idea of moving the BLM to Grand Junction, this publication called it a "brilliant," "pie in the sky" idea. But the truth is there's simply no reason for the BLM to be located in Washington, D.C., except to consolidate power further away from the states and enable Washington's worst impulses in managing our public lands.
Ninety-nine percent of the 250 million acres of public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management is west of the Mississippi River. Moving the agency West and out of D.C. means employees can be surrounded by the land it manages instead of the lobbyists, consultants, and interest groups set up in our nation's capital.
With its headquarters in Grand Junction, the BLM's new neighbors will be people who are most impacted by the BLM's decisions and who care the most about our public lands. Coloradans will have an easier time being heard at the BLM, and the directorate of the BLM can leave work and take in the beautiful scenery of Colorado's Western Slope, reminded of the natural wonders they work to conserve and protect every day.
It's not easy to lift an entire government agency out of Washington's grasp and move it to real America, but anything is possible when smart ideas transcend party lines and empower the people. The BLM's move is a victory for the bipartisan coalition of local Colorado communities, advocates for public lands, and proponents for a more responsible and accountable federal government who have supported the move since I first proposed it.
Thomas Jefferson once remarked, "the government closest to the people serves the people the best." So, too, with government and the public's lands.
Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, represents Colorado in the U.S. Senate.