U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert has joined other Colorado officials in inviting Interior Secretary Deb Haaland to visit the Bureau of Land Management headquarters in Grand Junction.
A March 15 letter addressed to Haaland was also signed by three Mesa County commissioners and the CEO of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce. It congratulated Haaland on her nomination, invited her to Grand Junction and expressed the significance of having the BLM headquarters in the West.
“The West has unique challenges as you know,” the letter says. “The value of having senior BLM leadership staff on the ground that understand these issues and is immersed in our communities cannot be understated.”
In 2019, David Bernhardt, former secretary of interior under President Donald Trump, announced the BLM headquarters would move to Grand Junction. The move was finalized in 2020, but few positions have been filled after many employees chose not to follow the BLM to the West, which has hindered the agency’s operations.
In the letter, Boebert and other local leaders expressed support for a fully functioning BLM to be established in Grand Junction. It highlighted the benefits of keeping the headquarters in Grand Junction and the potential problems with reversing the move.
“Reversing the move at this juncture would impose hardships on public servants that were recently hired or willingly made the move West,” the letter says. “Such action would be destructive and result in the loss of even more agency employees.”
According to the letter, more than 300 BLM employees now live in the West as a result of the initial relocation.
Earlier this year, U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and John Hickenlooper, D-Colo., sent a letter urging the Biden administration to ensure that a fully functioning BLM headquarters be installed permanently in Grand Junction.
The senators’ letter said, “The Trump administration did not follow through on their promise to Grand Junction.”
Boebert and 21 other Republican members of the U.S. House, including Colorado Reps. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., and Ken Buck, R-Colo., signed a similar letter to Biden in January. Their letter, however, focused less on the shortcomings of the previous administration and more on the significance of keeping the BLM headquarters in Colorado.
“It only makes sense to have the people managing hundreds of millions of acres of land located near that land and accessible to those communities,” Boebert said in a statement in January. “The Bureau of Land Management’s move West is a win for all Americans.”
Hickenlooper also invited Haaland to visit the BLM headquarters in Grand Junction on a less formal basis. During her first confirmation hearing with the Senate committee on energy and natural resources, Hickenlooper asked her about being involved with the BLM headquarters and the CORE Act.
“I’ll absolutely keep an open dialogue, and if you’re inviting me to Colorado, I gracefully accept,” Haaland said.
“That was my next question,” Hickenlooper said in reply. “We’d love to get you out to Grand Junction and let you see the BLM land out there, but also see the new headquarters and what it looks like.”
Haaland has yet to respond to Boebert’s invitation to Grand Junction. Her office did not respond to requests for comment from The Durango Herald.
However, it is likely she will visit the headquarters in the near future as it is an essential agency within the Department of Interior.
“The bureau’s move west connected the agency with the communities it impacts the most, and it has given Coloradans better customer service, good-paying local jobs and a forum to voice their opinions about issues that affect their daily lives,” Boebert said in her weekly newsletter. “I hope that when Secretary Haaland visits, she will share my enthusiasm for community-involved land-use policies and support keeping the bureau’s headquarters out west.”
Grace George is an intern for The Durango Herald and The Journal in Cortez and a student at American University in Washington, D.C.