On BLM Move, Pendley Says The West Woos Workers. Just Maybe Not Existing Ones

Originally published on November 7, 2019 11:21 pm

There's been a lot of criticism of the Bureau of Land Management’s plan to move hundreds of positions from Washington D.C. to Western states. But the agency’s acting director is giving a new reason for the move.

William Perry Pendley told the Mountain West News Bureau that it’ll be easier to hire people in the West in part because people want to live here.

“We have not been able to fill many of the positions we have in Washington simply because the people that we need -- whether they’re recreational experts or they’re oil and gas people or mining people or ranchers or land use specialists or renewable energy types -- they want to live out West,” Pendley said. “They want to make use of the public lands out West. They don’t want to go to Washington and have an hour-and-a-half commute one way.” 

He added that the agency recently advertised a chief-of-staff position to be located in Grand Junction, Colorado, “and the first week we had 19 applications for that job. And it was a job we simply could not fill in Washington D.C. I think it's going to be an embarrassment of riches.”

Jayson O’Neill, with the public lands watchdog Western Values Project, calls Pendley’s claim that the BLM’s relocation will lead to more competition for jobs an “empty talking point.”

“There’s mass confusion around this proposal,” O’Neill said. “What’s been scant on detail has led to quite frankly a mass exodus of the career officials that have expertise regarding decisions around our public lands.”

As E&E News reports, BLM employees at the agency’s D.C. headquarters are expected to receive formal notices of relocation to Colorado and other Western states next week, and will have a month to decide whether to move, or quit. 

Several BLM employees who spoke to a Government Executive reporter on the condition of anonymity “all lamented plummeting morale, a mistrust of leadership and a growing fear their work is, in reality, being removed rather than simply moved.” One employee was quoted as saying, “It’s a huge loss of a talented, dedicated workforce.”

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City, KUNR in Nevada, the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.

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