WASHINGTON (AP) — Interior Secretary Deb Haaland is moving the national headquarters of the Bureau of Land Management back to the nation’s capital after two years in Colorado, reversing a decision by former President Donald Trump's administration to move the agency closer to the region it serves.
The land management bureau, which oversees nearly one-fifth of the nation’s public lands, lost nearly 300 employees to retirement or resignation after its headquarters was moved to Grand Junction, Colorado, in 2019. Grand Junction will be rechristened the agency's “western headquarters,” Haaland said in a news release, and “have an important role to play in the bureau’s clean energy, outdoor recreation, conservation, and scientific missions."
With control of 245 million acres, the agency has broad influence over energy development and agriculture in the western U.S., managing public lands for uses ranging from fossil fuel extraction, renewable power development and grazing, to recreation and wilderness.
Trump's first interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, initiated the headquarters move west and called it a needed reorganization that put top agency officials closer to the public lands it oversees. The move was completed under David Bernhardt, who succeeded Zinke in 2019.
Critics said the Trump administration intended to gut the agency and pointed to the number of people who refused to transfer to Colorado as evidence of the administration’s bid to get rid of career employees. A similar mass exodus occurred after two Agriculture Department research agencies were moved from Washington to Kansas City, Missouri, under Trump.