OPINION: BLM headquarters in Grand Junction benefits entire country

By Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA) and Colorado Farm Bureau President Carlyle Currier

This piece was originally published in the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel on May 9, 2021.

Since it was established in 1946, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has held the mission of caring for and providing multiple-use of our nation’s public lands. The Bureau manages 245 million acres, or one out of every 10 acres in the United States, with 99% of this land located west of the Mississippi River. BLM is charged with helping maintain our forests and grasslands and provides permits for more than 18,000 livestock grazers, greatly reducing fuel loads and minimizing the risk of catastrophic wildfires. By working together with local communities, they actively promote healthy and productive public lands that create jobs and provide economic stability in communities across the West.
                                                                                                    
In essence, BLM makes important decisions that have huge impacts on the lives and livelihoods of the American West. On August 10, 2020, the Department of the Interior formally established the Bureau of Land Management Headquarters in Grand Junction, Colorado. Not only did this pivotal move bring land management decision-makers closer to the lands they manage, but it created 328 new, good-paying jobs throughout western states. Further, the local economy of Grand Junction and greater Mesa County is expected to see a boost of $45 million annually.
 
As Chairman of the Congressional Western Caucus, a group of Members of Congress that advocates for responsible, local land management, and President of the Colorado Farm Bureau, the state’s largest agriculture organization, we understand that when it comes to land management, reading something on paper cannot compare to actually getting out on the land, kicking the dirt, and seeing it firsthand. Despite this, the Biden Administration is considering moving BLM’s Headquarters back to Washington, D.C. just months after the Trump Administration finalized the move to Colorado.

Representative Lauren Boebert (R-CO), who serves as Vice Chair of the Western Caucus, recently invited us to participate in a roundtable with local leaders in Grand Junction to discuss the positive impacts the move West has brought for surrounding communities. We heard firsthand how the move improved the Bureau’s ability to effectively manage lands, create jobs, and support local economies.
 
In addition to local business leaders, conservation groups, and economic development organizations, Democrat leaders in Colorado – including Governor Jared Polis, Senator Michael Bennet, and Senator John Hickenlooper – have thrown their support behind maintaining the BLM Headquarters in Grand Junction.
 
When it comes to public lands, increasing coordination with local communities and strengthening conservation efforts should not be a partisan issue. While it is imperative to ensure land users have expanded access to our public lands, we also believe it is of equal importance that everyday users have access to the officials that make decisions that impact our lands. As Representative Boebert said at the roundtable, “Land management decisions are best made by the people who live, work, and raise their families on or near those lands and that are invested in local communities.” We cannot agree more.
 
Representative Boebert has also introduced the LOCAL Act, a bill that would make the move of BLM’s headquarters permanent, and maintain the jobs created in western states. We call on the bipartisan group of Colorado officials who support the move to also support the LOCAL Act and ensure the voices of local communities are heard on this important matter.
 
The Headquarters in Grand Junction doesn’t only benefit Mesa County or the state of Colorado; it benefits the entire country. More often than not, our public lands are managed by people far removed from the impacts their decisions have on farmers, ranchers, land users, rural communities and taxpayers; and we believe the relocation of the BLM Headquarters should serve as an example for agencies throughout the federal government.

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