Interior Secretary Deb Haaland will visit Colorado as BLM decision looms

/ In The News, News
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland

As published by The Denver Post

U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland will visit Grand Junction this week as she and President Joe Biden’s administration weigh whether to keep the Bureau of Land Management‘s headquarters in the Western Slope city.

“We’re happy to host Secretary Haaland and look forward to productive conversations with Grand Junction community leaders on the future of the BLM headquarters,” Colorado’s U.S. senators Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper said in a joint statement Tuesday.

The fate of the headquarters, which moved from Washington, D.C., to Grand Junction in 2019, rests in the hands of Haaland and Biden. Grand Junction officials seeking to keep it in Colorado had requested that Haaland visit the city.

U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, a Republican who represents Grand Junction in Congress, will meet with Haaland on Friday, according to Boebert’s office.

“Westerners deserve a voice in the land-use decisions that affect their lives daily,” Boebert said in a statement Tuesday. “Since 99% of the lands that the bureau manages are west of the Mississippi, it only makes sense to have the agency located near the communities it serves.”

Haaland, a former Democratic congresswoman from New Mexico, became the first Native American to hold the position when she was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in March. She was critical of moving BLM headquarters but hasn’t said whether she intends to return it to Washington.

In June, Colorado Newsline reported that BLM said of the 328 D.C.-based positions assigned to Grand Junction, three people moved there and 38 others were relocated to “State Offices across the West.” The rest, 287 people, resigned or retired.

 “Secretary Haaland should use this visit to admit what is clear for all to see: The Bureau of Land Management needs a functioning headquarters staffed with experienced leaders, and the fastest way to do that is to rebuild the agency in Washington, D.C.,” said Jennifer Rokala, executive director of the Colorado-based environmental group Center for Western Priorities.

Haaland will also stop in Denver on Thursday to discuss drought response and in Ridgway on Saturday to discuss Colorado’s outdoor recreation economy, according to a Department of the Interior news release.