We’re bullish on the Bureau of Land Management headquarters remaining in Grand Junction given the pedigree of President Biden’s pick to lead the organization. More on that in a moment.
If Interior Secretary Deb Haaland’s confirmation is any indication, Biden’s nominee to lead the BLM will also be confirmed soon, despite the grilling she endured on Tuesday from Republican senators about her past positions on natural-resources development on federal lands.
Haaland’s vote was 51-40, with most Republicans voting against her after several called her views on public land use and fossil fuels extreme. Similarly, Biden’s BLM nominee, Tracy Stone-Manning, was painted as a partisan and environmental extremist bent on restricting multiple uses on public lands.
(We never got to see the grilling William Perry Pendley, the former de facto leader of the BLM, would have received about his views on public lands given his advocacy for selling them off. Former President Donald Trump never really tried to get anyone confirmed in the role.)
Senate hearing gamesmanship aside, confirmations boil down to the party in charge of the Senate. Right now that’s Democrats, so Stone-Manning’s confirmation should be a foregone conclusion with the built-in expectation that she’ll carry out Biden’s agenda, which has already included a moratorium on federal oil and gas leasing to allow for a review of the leasing program and an initiative to conserve more land and water.
In other words, don’t hate the player, hate the game. Pendley and former Interior Secretary David Bernhardt pushed Trump’s “energy dominance” agenda, and Haaland and Stone-Manning will make policy decisions through the lens of climate change and conservation, per Biden’s priorities. As we pointed out in this space many times during the previous administration, elections have consequences.
Stone-Manning has been a National Wildlife Federation executive in Missoula, Mont., since 2017. Earlier she served as chief of staff for then-Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat, and in his cabinet as director of the state Department of Environmental Quality.
In her testimony on Tuesday, she sought to address concerns raised by some senators about her willingness to respect and balance multiple uses on BLM lands. “I have spent a career ... balancing the needs of various communities and stakeholders and I would do that and then some in this position,” she said.
We buy that. She has the policy chops to balance competing interests. The BLM is responsible for managing a variety of uses: mining, livestock grazing, energy production, managing for sustainable recreation and protecting culturally significant and environmentally sensitive lands.
As a Montana resident, she must appreciate how living in that state has honed her sensitivity to the importance of multiple uses. Hopefully that means something. U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper has been pressing the case for keeping the BLM’s national headquarters in Grand Junction, raising the topic in Tuesday’s hearing.
Stone-Manning 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.
While some of that may even be true, we hope Stone-Manning recognizes the opportunity to make the basic premise underpinning the move also true — that public lands are best managed by people who live near them.
She’s already made the case herself by living in Montana while working for an advocacy group whose headquarters are near Washington, D.C. She, perhaps more than anyone, knows it’s a model that works.