Bureau of Land Management Director Tracy Stone-Manning has outlined plans to staff up the western office in Grand Junction, as the official headquarters moves back to the nation’s capital.
In an email Stone-Manning sent to staff last week and obtained by CPR News, she wrote that for the first time, the BLM “will staff the Grand Junction office to full capacity.” She also hinted that further growth could be possible.
Brian Hires, a spokesperson for the BLM, said the agency is committed to maintaining a strong presence in “our Western Headquarters office in Grand Junction.”
“We are moving forward to staff the office space to full capacity of 56 employees and base leadership positions in this office. These leadership positions will include a new Senior Executive Service (SES) position as well as the Assistant Director and Deputy Assistant Director for our National Conservation Lands and Community Partnerships program,” Hires said in a statement. “This is in addition to the existing field office in Grand Junction, which hosts an additional 70 employees.”
It was welcome news to members of Colorado’s congressional delegation, who have been advocating for a continued BLM presence in Grand Junction, as many expected the Biden administration to move the headquarters back to Washington, D.C.
“We’re glad to see the BLM following through on its commitment to a robust Western Headquarters in Grand Junction,” said Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper in a joint statement. “Staffing the office to full capacity and locating key leadership positions in the West will strengthen public lands management and give our communities a seat at the table.”
Hickenlooper, a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, invited Interior Secretary Deb Haaland to visit the BLM headquarters in Grand Junction last year as part of a bipartisan pitch to keep a BLM presence in Colorado.
The area’s congresswoman Lauren Boebert said in a statement she was “thrilled” by the news.
“This wouldn’t have happened without bipartisan collaboration and strong grassroots support. The Western Headquarters’ jobs we were able to keep in the community is a victory for the Third District,” she said.
What Jobs Are Staying and Possibly Coming to Grand Junction?
In the email, Stone-Manning wrote “Grand Junction is an ideal location for continuing to develop approaches for managing the interplay of energy development, recreation and conservation,” she wrote. The BLM’s National Conservation Lands and Community Partnership program is “well-suited to anchor the western office of the headquarters.”
All vacant positions in that office will be advertised as working in Grand Junction, and the other positions in that office, with some exceptions, will have Grand Junction as their duty station by January 2023. Remote work will be possible through the end of fiscal year 2023 “to ensure smooth transitions for employees and their families.”
The new SES position will act as a liaison in the region, working closely with leadership in Washington, D.C. There will also be three new positions in the Renewable Energy Coordination Office.
As for the future growth of the office, Stone-Manning said the agency plans to explore setting up a Restoration Center of Excellence out of the Grand Junction office.
According to the email, the decision was “informed” by a staff survey conducted in the summer of 2021 and work of the Employee Advisory Group, set up earlier this year.
The plan caps a three-year effort to make the Western Slope city the home of a government agency. The move from Washington D.C. was criticized as an attempt to hollow out BLM, and for being a much smaller relocation to Grand Junction than anticipated.
Instead of moving all headquarters jobs to Grand Junction, hundreds of jobs were scattered across the West, with Grand Junction getting 27 positions. That was later upped to 41 positions. Many, however, did not make the move due to the pandemic.
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