(The Center Square) - The U.S. Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) headquarters in Grand Junction, will be moved back to Washington, D.C., the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) announced Friday.
The bureau, which is tasked with managing over 245 million acres, mostly in Western states, will still maintain a Western headquarters at the Grand Junction location, but the BLM director and other leadership posts will be based in the nation's capital.
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced the plans to BLM employees in a meeting Friday, the department said.
"There's no doubt that the BLM should have a leadership presence in Washington, D.C. - like all the other land management agencies - to ensure that it has access to the policy-, budget-, and decision-making levers to best carry out its mission," Haaland said in a statement. "In addition, the BLM's robust presence in Colorado and across the West will continue to grow."
The move also drew strong rebuke from Democrats and environmental activists who said it was an attempt to dismantle the agency.
DOI said in its statement Monday that the Trump administration's move "failed to deliver promised jobs across the West and drove hundreds of people out of the agency," noting only three BLM employees relocated to the new headquarters.
"The past several years have been incredibly disruptive to the organization, to our public servants, and to their families," Haaland added. "As we move forward, my priority is to revitalize and rebuild the BLM so that it can meet the pressing challenges of our time, and to look out for our employees' well-being."
The Grand Junction headquarters had bipartisan support from Colorado's congressional delegation as well as Governor Jared Polis.
"The bottom line is that more senior BLM officials and decision-makers moving to the Grand Junction office is a good thing for Colorado and our country," Polis said in a statement Friday. "The initial presence was far too small and now I'm finally hopeful that the office will grow."
"While I am disappointed that the national headquarters will be in Washington, I believe establishing and growing a permanent BLM Western Headquarters in Grand Junction should be a very positive development," said U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo.
Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., who represents the district where the Grand Junction office is located, called the move "clearly a partisan attack on rural communities."
"While I'm disappointed with today's decision and the details are light, this could still ultimately be a win for Grand Junction and the West as a western headquarters will remain in Grand Junction, more jobs will move to Grand Junction, and all the jobs that moved out West won't be moved back to D.C.," she added.