Gardner Says BLM Will Indeed Move To Grand Junction, After Yearslong Campaign

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Stina Sieg/CPR News
The Old Spanish Trail near Grand Junction, which is on Bureau of Land Management land.

Grand Junction has landed its "big fish:" the Bureau of Land Management headquarters.

Republican Sen. Cory Gardner announced the federal agency's anticipated move from Washington, D.C., to Grand Junction on Monday.

The senator and other officials have been courting the bureau for more than two years. Gardner said the move will bring the BLM's decision makers closer to the millions of acres of public land it manages.

"Today is a historic day for our nation’s public lands, western states, and the people of Colorado,” Gardner said in a statement. “Relocating the Bureau of Land Management to the Western Slope of Colorado will bring the bureau’s decision makers closer to the people they serve and the public lands they manage. The problem with Washington is too many policy makers are far removed from the people they are there to serve. Ninety-nine percent of the land the BLM manages is West of the Mississippi River, and so should be the BLM headquarters. This is a victory for local communities, advocates for public lands, and proponents for a more responsible and accountable federal government.”

Colorado GOP chairman Ken Buck celebrated the move and Gardner's involvement.

"Cory Gardner got it done,” Buck said in a statement. " Moving the BLM HQ out of Washington, DC and to western Colorado is a victory for our state and the millions of people impacted by BLM decisions each day. This will improve how the agency manages our public lands by ensuring the decision makers are actually in our community. Cory’s hard work and leadership came up big for Colorado and the West today."

Republican Rep. Scott Tipton thinks the influx of jobs and influence to Grand Junction will help balance economic disparities between different regions of Colorado.

"Denver (and) a lot of our resort areas have done very well. Move out into the rural parts of the state and there have been a lot of economic challenges," Tipton said. "So this will be something economically that's going to help the community, and it's also going to be helping the administration of the land."

Gov. Jared Polis also voice his support for the move, and said in a statement he was "thrilled to welcome" the federal agency.

“Hard to think of a better place to house the department responsible for overseeing our beloved public lands," the governor's statement continued.

Courtney Gidner, a spokeswoman for Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, said Bennet has long supported Grand Junction's bid for the BLM headquarters and will review the details of the plan when they're provided.

The Washington Post and the news website E&E reported the agency will formally announce the new HQ on Tuesday. The Post said nearly 80 BLM employees will move west.

While Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and former secretary Ryan Zinke have spoken favorably about the move, E&E reports it's not sitting well with many BLM employees.

Some environmental groups and other Western politicos have also objected to the move. National Wildlife Federation associate vice president Tracy Stone-Manning said in a statement it is "expensive and unnecessary." Arizona Rep. Raúl Grijalva, a critic of Bernhardt and the proposed relocation, said in a statement that the Grand Junction move would only accelerate the agency's "agenda" of "handing over public lands to fossil fuel companies at record speed."