House lawmakers and Department of the Interior (DOI) officials will tour Ogden, Utah, next week, scoping out the town as a potential headquarters for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke is making plans to move the headquarters of the BLM out of Washington, D.C., to a city in the western U.S., but a decision has not been made on the new destination. House Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop of Utah will lead the tour that will include other members of the committee and the DOI acting assistant secretary for policy, management and budget, Susan Combs. Combs is overseeing the BLM’s transition out of the U.S. capital, Utah’s Deseret News reports. Moving the BLM headquarters, which manages about 248 million acres of federal land, west would serve as a good faith gesture to farmers and ranchers who often complain of BLM policies and regulations coming from bureaucrats living potentially thousands of miles away. The new headquarters would be more accessible to the people BLM regulations most affect…MORE
A “good faith gesture” is an accurate description of this proposal. It is just a gesture. Not a single law, regulation, field manual or policy memo is changed. The same landlord will exist. implementing the same statutory and regulatory regime.Think back to the Obama administration. If the headquarters of the BLM and the USFWS had been located in Colo. or Utah, what real difference would this have made? Would the administration of grazing permits, the implementation of NEPA, or the preferred alternatives in land use plans been different? Would the number of endangered species listed been different? Or the number and size of critical habitat designations?
If these agencies had been headquartered in the West, would their Congressional testimony, on behalf of the Obama administration, in favor of additional wilderness areas and other restrictive designations have been different?
Would Obama have designated fewer National Monuments?
My fear is that while we have Republicans controlling the Presidency and both Houses of Congress, we are squandering an opportunity to bring meaningful, long-term changes to the statutes underwhich we are governed, and instead are spending energy, time and political capital debating and determing where our oppressors will be located.
Somewhere in the West, a chamber of commerce would benefit from the relocation of these headquarters. An urban area will welcome the federal employees and the additional spending they will bring. In the rural areas, where these lands and their users actually exist, little will have changed.