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Conservationists Oppose Moving BLM HQ to Western State

Cedar Mesa in Southern Utah is part of thousands of square miles of public lands in the Western United States. Federal officials are considering moving the BLM's headquarters from Washington, D.C.  to a western state to better manage public lands. (HannahCowan/BLM)
Cedar Mesa in Southern Utah is part of thousands of square miles of public lands in the Western United States. Federal officials are considering moving the BLM's headquarters from Washington, D.C. to a western state to better manage public lands. (HannahCowan/BLM)
May 20, 2019

SALT LAKE CITY — Federal officials say they plan to reveal later this year whether they will relocate the Bureau of Land Management headquarters to a Western state. The stated goal is to better manage federally owned public lands, which are mostly in the West. But conservation have questioned the Trump administration's motives.

States such as Utah, Arizona, Idaho, New Mexico and Colorado have been most prominently mentioned for the relocation. Ashley Soltysiak with the Sierra Club of Utah said they see no real reason for the move.

"I think that the current system is working - sort of that 'if it's not broke don't fix it' mentality,” Soltysiak said. “But there are field offices throughout the West, and they communicate regularly with headquarters. And so I don't see a huge benefit to moving the headquarters west."

Soltysiak said the states being considered have large contingents of legislators and other interests who want the states to control federal lands.

Conservation groups such as the Sierra Club and others have fought for years to keep public lands under federal control. They are concerned that those lands could be opened up for mineral leases or other development or might be sold outright to private interests.

Currently, the federal government owns more than one-third of all the land in the five states, and controls more than 60% of both Idaho and Utah.

Shifting control of public lands to sates has long been a goal of many western-state conservatives, who say the federal government controls too much of their land. Soltysiak said moving a large agency such as the BLM out of Washington could be an enormous and unnecessary expense.

"There's been no dollar sign that's been placed on this reorganization," she said. "And these types of changes don't come without a pretty major cost, which could be massive for an agency that has already been underfunded and has limited resources.”

Over the last two years, the Trump administration has acted aggressively to remove parts of national monuments and limit future designations. In Utah, a presidential order removed millions of acres of land from both the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante monuments.

Department of the Interior officials say September is their deadline to announce details of any decision to relocate the BLM.

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - UT