Four months ago -- much to the consternation of many of my devoted readers and the delight of a few -- I outlined the reasons that I supported moving the Bureau of Land Management headquarters to a city in the West. Shortly thereafter, the Department of Interior announced that it was doing just that, and has rushed the process along.
Like so many initiatives put forth by the current administration, the BLM HQ move has degraded from a semi-reasonable proposal into an unmitigated disaster.
The initial proposal was to move some 300 agency staffers from Washington, D.C., to Grand Junction, Colorado. It would benefit Grand Junction's economy and, I believe, the city's culture. It would give small, regional environmental and community advocacy groups more access to agency leaders since they wouldn't have to fly across the country to meet with top brass (or to protest in the national HQ parking lot, as the case may be). Journalists based in the West would have better access to agency officials. And it would give the agency bosses better oversight when it comes to BLM field offices, which, in my experience, have a tendency to go "rogue" in favor of industry.
But that's not happening. Instead, the agency is:
• moving just 27 employees to Grand Junction, while scattering the rest across the region, a blatant ploy to dismantle the agency;
• rushing the move without staff input in such a way that will force a number of high-level, experienced folks to simply throw up their hands and quit, forcing a major brain-drain;
• locating the new Grand Junction offices in the same building that houses oil and gas companies, demonstrating with physical proximity the influence industry has over the agency.
I guess we shouldn't be surprised. After all, the BLM is now headed by William Perry Pendley, a man who has spent most of his adult life trying to do away with the BLM and environmental protections and regulations. Mostly he's used lawsuits to achieve his ends, most of which he has lost. But now Pendley is in the driver's seat and he's clearly intent on steering the entire agency off of a cliff, as is evident by the way he's orchestrating this move.