BLM might expand employee numbers at new headquarters in Colorado

The creation of a new Bureau of Land Management headquarters in Grand Junction, Colorado might involve more employees than originally announced. Acting director William Pendley said up to 40 might be located in the Western Colorado city once the relocation is made from Washington, D.C.

William Perry Pendley, who is meeting in Grand Junction this week with assistant BLM directors and BLM state directors, said in an interview Thursday that the 27 jobs he previously has said are coming to Grand Junction remains “the most solid number.”

“However, internally we think we may go as high as 40, and I think you can quote me on that,” Pendley told The Daily Sentinel newspaper in Grand Junction.

Pendley said a lot of BLM jobs in Washington have been vacant because of that city’s high cost of living.

“As a result of that, we’re going to have to hire people here. It’s an exciting opportunity for us,” he said.

The agency announced earlier this year the relocation of its headquarters to Grand Junction as part of a transfer of hundreds of jobs based in the nation’s capital to locations in the West, where most BLM-managed lands are located.

The agency has leased office space on Horizon Drive. Pendley said some staff will be starting at that location in January.

“It’s going to be a small staff early on. We’re hoping we can stand up a lot more people beginning in early March,” he said. “That all turns on our ability to get people hired.”

The 27 jobs announced as coming to Grand Junction in July were fewer than local boosters had hoped for after the Interior Department first talked about moving the Washington headquarters out West. It ultimately decided to shift positions to numerous Western states, but to station top-level positions including the BLM directorship in Grand Junction, and to make the city its new national headquarters.

At the time of the announcement U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., who had pushed hard for the government to pick Grand Junction for the national office, said Interior officials had told him the number of Grand Junction employees eventually would grow.

The BLM already has been working to hire some of the 27 positions originally included in its Grand Junction plans because some of those positions are vacant, and Pendley said the agency has been overwhelmed by the number of applications it received.

“So that’s all been very positive,” he said.

He said the agency spent several months trying to hire a chief of staff in Washington and wasn’t able to do it.

“I think we had like 60 applications for that job here in Grand Junction, and we think we’ll be able to fill it quite easily,” Pendley said. “It all goes to the cost of living, it goes to commuting time, it goes to proximity to recreational activities. People want to be here in the West.”

The Trump administration says it is moving Washington BLM jobs out West to put national-level decisionmakers closer to the lands those decisions affect. The BLM’s relocation plans face opposition from critics including the Public Lands Foundation, made up of mostly BLM retirees, which says 97% of BLM jobs already are out in the field and the Washington positions are needed there for purposes such as collaborating with other agencies.

The BLM says it can fulfill such functions with 61 jobs it plans to keep in the capital. Pendley said it’s important for top agency decisionmakers to be physically present in the West and have meaningful conversations with westerners, and the relocation plan “makes every bit of sense in the world.”

He said many BLM Washington positions are vacant because people who live out West and have the necessary expertise would love to work for the agency at a high level but don’t want to go to Washington.

“Now they can work for the BLM and live in the neighborhood,” he said.

He said BLM officials “can’t be good neighbors, which the president wants us to be, if we’re not neighbors to begin with.”

How many open positions the BLM will have to fill in Grand Junction and other locations where it moves Washington jobs will hinge on how many employees in Washington choose to agree to relocate.

The BLM otherwise plans to help them try to find other jobs in the capital in the agency or elsewhere in the Interior Department, or provide help in other ways such as through retirement incentives.

Pendley said the agency believes it has sufficient financial resources to make the move. Still unclear is what level of future financial support Congress will provide and how that might affect the relocation effort, including when it comes to assisting affected employees.

“We are doing all we can to take care of the employees and obviously we need money to do that. We hope (Congress) will work with us in providing whatever benefits we can to those employees,” he said.

says it is moving Washington BLM jobs out West to put national-level decisionmakers closer to the lands those decisions affect. The BLM’s relocation plans face opposition from critics including the Public Lands Foundation, made up of mostly BLM retirees, which says 97% of BLM jobs already are out in the field and the Washington positions are needed there for purposes such as collaborating with other agencies.

The BLM says it can fulfill such functions with 61 jobs it plans to keep in the capital. Pendley said it’s important for top agency decisionmakers to be physically present in the West and have meaningful conversations with Westerners, and the relocation plan “makes every bit of sense in the world.”

He said many BLM Washington positions are vacant because people who live out West and have the necessary expertise would love to work for the agency at a high level but don’t want to go to Washington.

Source:  The Daily Sentinel of Grand Junction, Colorado.

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