CORRECTION: This editorial was originally published with a quote in the seventh paragraph misattributed to Erin Riccio, the Western Slope field organizer with Conservation Colorado. Please see her actual statement at the bottom of the page. We will correct the record in the July 18 edition of the Sentinel.
The BLM is coming to Grand Junction. Now what?
When we first contemplated the impact of this move, we imagined the entire Washington, D.C. operation — some 300 federal workers — being transplanted en masse to a campus setting somewhere in the Grand Valley.
That's not how this is going down. The BLM is moving its top brass, 27 senior-level officials, to Grand Junction, but twice that many workers are moving to Lakewood. Other BLM employees are headed to other Western states.
A day after feeling like this was a game-changer for Grand Junction, the letdown is palpable. We're stuck between feeling grateful that Grand Junction will be known as the BLM's Western Headquarters and frustrated that such a distinction has been hollowed out to its barest impact.
Pardon the cynicism, but this community comes by it honestly. From the Colony Oil Shale project to Jordan Cove, we're used to seeing exciting developments fizzle around here. That's how the Interior Department's reorganization feels at the moment.
It doesn't help that much of the rest of the country thinks that this is a thinly veiled attempt to dismantle any conservation-oriented aspects of the agency in service to President Trump's energy dominance agenda.
"Secretary Bernhardt is asking families to uproot their lives in a matter of months or possibly lose their jobs, all for a PR stunt," Jennifer Rokola, executive director of the Center for Western Priorities, said in a statement Tuesday. "It's yet another cynical attempt to drain the Interior Department of expertise and career leadership. Our public lands deserve an agency that is effectively coordinating with the Interior Department more broadly, and with Congress."
That seems to be the prevailing attitude among conservation groups and environmentalists. But we still think the idea is solid — that public land managers shouldn't be absentee landlords. They should live among the people affected by the impact of their decisions.
We may have hoped for more in terms of sheer numbers of employees relocating to the Grand Valley, but with the highest-ranking ones in our midst, the potential for growth is good. If this is to be the apex of power of the BLM's hierarchy, it will attract people both inside and outside of the federal government who may find it advantageous to be within the BLM's orbit.
In that vein, perhaps we'll come to see this as an important first step toward something bigger. Maybe all the hype proves to be true — that Grand Junction is the nexus of everything the BLM does — and the agency begins to recognize the benefits of having more top decision-makers here.
It probably would have been a stretch to accommodate 300 Washington, D.C. transplants all at once, anyway. So maybe we should be grateful for the chance to start small.
Disappointments aside, there's still no doubt that this is an economic development coup of the highest magnitude. It's one more component of a diversified economy. It's also an opportunity to plan for the growth that should come from having a federal headquarters in our town, in addition to all the other opportunities that are arising.
STATEMENT FROM ERIN RICCIO
GRAND JUNCTION, COLORADO — Today (July 16), the Department of the Interior officially announced that it plans to relocate the Bureau of Land Management headquarters to Grand Junction.
In response, Erin Riccio, Western Slope field organizer with Conservation Colorado, released the following statement:
“It’s no surprise the Bureau of Land Management wants to relocate to Grand Junction. With a fantastic quality of life supported by our stunning public lands, the location is a no-brainer.
“We’re among the many residents in Grand Junction who are excited about this news that will benefit the local economy and bring employees closer to some of the lands they manage. However, moving the BLM headquarters to Grand Junction won’t actually protect our treasured landscapes as long as the Trump administration’s ‘energy dominance’ agenda is in place. At every opportunity, this administration and its supporters have gutted public input processes and dodged transparency requirements, even going so far as to allow drilling permits during January’s government shutdown.
“It is also worth noting that Senator Cory Gardner, who took credit for this move, continues to serve as a cheerleader for President Trump’s anti-conservation agenda. He voted time and time again to cut West Slope residents and Coloradans out of land management decisions, open treasured landscapes to drilling, and remains the only Colorado Senator to never sponsor a Colorado wilderness bill.
“We’re excited that the BLM is coming to Grand Junction. But regardless of where the BLM calls home, Coloradans want a fair public process with a more comprehensive lands management focus than the ‘energy dominance’ agenda of the Trump administration and Senator Gardner.”
UPDATE: 11:03 A.M. — Conservation Colorado issued the following statement in response to the error.
"As community members with an office in Grand Junction for over 15 years, Conservation Colorado wants to be clear regarding our position on the Bureau of Land Management’s move to Grand Junction. The BLM headquarters moving to Grand Junction will be valuable to our overall community. Given our organization’s longevity in this community, we’ve seen the long-term benefits of economic diversification and job creation from opportunities like this one. The BLM could have chosen a multitude of relocation cities in the Western United States, but because the Grand Valley has cultivated a culture of outdoor recreation, historic downtown development, and agritourism, it stood out at the top of the list.
"However, while moving the BLM headquarters to Grand Junction will benefit the local economy and bring BLM employees closer to some of the lands they manage, it won’t actually protect our treasured landscapes as long as the current administration’s “energy dominance” agenda is in place. Coloradans want a fair public process with a more comprehensive lands management focus than the ‘energy dominance’ agenda of the Trump administration, and this move alone will not change that focus."