Economic developers in three Western states are competing for the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) new headquarters, which is now under consideration by the Department of the Interior (DOI). Some wild horse advocates believe a new BLM headquarters in the West could work in the horses’ advantage.
Earlier this year, DOI Secretary Ryan Zinke began a major reorganization of the agency, which manages about 500 million acres of public lands. Most of those lands are located in a dozen Western states including Colorado, Idaho, and Utah. The BLM, a part of the DOI, is charged with managing wild horse and burro herds roaming public lands.
Part of Zinke’s proposed reorganization involved relocating the agency’s headquarters from Washington, D.C. to a Western site to better facilitate pubic land management there.
“The Department of the Interior is taking bold steps to better position itself for the next 100 years,” acting BLM spokesman Derrick Henry said in a written statement. “In response to the President’s executive order on a comprehensive plan for reorganizing the executive branch, (the DOI) is working to reorganize its operating structure to establish unified regional boundaries to provide better coordination across the Department to improve mission delivery and focus resources in the field.”
In response, economic developers in Colorado, Idaho, and Utah began competing to host the headquarters.
“The State of Utah is on record saying they are interested in the prospective BLM headquarters,” said Aimee Edwards, communications and legislative policy director for the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development.
Likewise, Matt Borud, chief marketing and Innovation officer for the Idaho Department of Commerce, confirmed that “Idaho has expressed our interest to Secretary Zinke in having the office in Idaho.”
Meanwhile, Colorado has lobbied hard to be selected as the headquarters’ new home. Governor John Hickenlooper lent his support for placing the headquarters in his state in a letter to U.S. Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt. In addition, eight Colorado counties have passed resolutions in support of the BLM locating its headquarters in Grand Junction. Finally, the Grand Junction Economic Partnership (GJEP) has developed a website to extol the location’s virtues.
“We have been courting the BLM (headquarters) quite heavily and with support from the Colorado governor and several senators,” said Cilia Kohn, GJEP director of marketing and communications. “As far as I know, the DOI has only officially confirmed that the BLM (headquarters) will move West. However, Colorado and Grand Junction, in particular, have been touted as on the short list by several unconfirmed reports.”
While such a relocation could represent an economic windfall in jobs, housing, and even retail industries for the host site, the move could benefit wild horses, too, some advocates say.
“By overwhelming majority, Americans want our wild horses and burros protected on our public lands, not destroyed,” said Suzanne Roy, executive director of the American Wild Horse Campaign. “If moving the BLM to the West helps promote accountability and shift the agency focus from special interests to the public interest, then we are all for it.”