The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) plans to relocate national policy staff positions closer to the lands it manages, according to the U.S. Department of the Interior (DoI). This realignment means most BLM Washington Office staff will be assigned to duty stations in the West, with approximately 30 leadership positions and staff going to Grand Junction, Colorado, in an initiative to create a Western headquarters. BLM staff with inherently Washington-focused positions will remain in D.C. The move West, according to DoI, will help the BLM delegate more responsibility to the field and maximize services to the American people. Moving elements of the USGS headquarters to the Western U.S. are still being finalized.
“A meaningful realignment of our operations is not simply about where functions are performed, rather, it is rooted in how changes will better respond to the needs of the American people,” Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt said. “Under our proposal, every Western state will gain additional staff resources. Shifting critical leadership positions and supporting staff to western states — where an overwhelming majority of federal lands are located — is not only a better management system, it is beneficial to the interest of the American public in these communities, cities, counties and states.”
In a letter to U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who chairs the Subcommittee on Interior and Environment, Assistant Interior Secretary Joe Balash offered details on a BLM realignment and the reasoning behind the decision.
Under the BLM’s implementation plan, the deputy director of policy and programs will remain in Washington, D.C., along with 60 staff. Roughly 300 of 550 positions will be redistributed throughout the BLM’s Western regions.
The BLM will allocate 74 headquarters positions, some of which have been vacant and unfilled for several years, to perform critical duties closer to the bureau’s resources in its state offices. The resources available for these positions will be realigned to the budgets of the appropriate state office, to which they will report, to address immediate needs and priorities. The BLM will disperse additional planning and environmental analyst resources, which formerly performed key functions for National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) reviews at headquarters, to states with environmental analyses in process, ranging from Colorado to Oregon.
“As it stands, nearly half of the BLM’s senior executive service leadership is currently based in Washington, D.C., despite the fact that their functions and operations are overwhelmingly carried out in the West,” Balash said. “In particular, the BLM’s assistant directors, who provide policy guidance, program oversight, and assistance on audits and evaluations for their respective national programs, are all currently based in Washington, D.C. The relocation of these leadership positions will significantly benefit the BLM’s day-to-day operations.
He added that there will be positive returns in cost and time savings, enhanced coordination with employees, external partners, and stakeholders; and more informed and improved decision-making.