Garfield County backs moving BLM headquarters out west

Alex Zorn
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
The Yampa River as seen from the Yampa Bench Road in Dinosaur National Monument.
Aspen Times File

Coming on the heals of Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s announcement that he’d like to relocate the Bureau of Land Management Headquarters out of Washington, D.C., to the West, Garfield County this week joined Mesa County and several other Colorado counties in endorsing the idea.

And what better place than western Colorado, they said.

“I really support this, and I think it’s a great move if we can get it to the western United States,” Commissioner Mike Samson said at the Tuesday county commissioners meeting. He added, “99 percent of federal lands are west of the Mississippi [River], and 90-plus percent of federal lands are west of Colorado. I would like to see it in the west.”

On Tuesday, the three Garfield County commissioners signed a letter supporting the relocation of the BLM headquarters to Grand Junction.

“I would like to see it in Colorado,” Samson continued. “I know Idaho and Utah and Montana will want it, and if that’s the way it goes that’s fine, but we would love to have it here in western Colorado.”

The letter states that “the vast amount of natural resources, ranging from oil, gas, coal, grazing for livestock, wildlife habitat, hunting, streams and trails contained on federal lands” and the “economic vitality of Mesa County” make Grand Junction the best location for the new headquarters.

Earlier this year, Zinke stated his intention to move the BLM headquarters out of Washington, D.C., as the vast majority of the country’s public lands are in the western United States, according to a press release from the county. Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner has also introduced a bill to move the BLM’s operations to one of 12 western states, including Colorado.

According to BLM NW Colorado spokesman David Boyd, the BLM nationally manages more than 245 million acres of public land located primarily in 12 western states, including Alaska. BLM Colorado manages 8.3 million surface acres, primarily in western Colorado, he added.

The BLM manages multiple uses on Colorado’s public lands, including oil and gas production, livestock grazing, hunting, fishing, and recreational use, all of which affect the Western Slope economy. Sixty-two percent of Colorado is federal land, of which the BLM oversees more than 1,000 square miles.