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BLM Retirees Lobby Lawmakers To Block Agency's Relocation

Photo of the Bureau of Land Management's Salt Lake field office.
Courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management
The Bureau of Land Management says its planned relocation of more than 150 top employees out West will bring regulators closer to the lands they manage, but some retired BLM officials believe the move will dismantle the agency.

A group of retired top officials from the Bureau of Land Management is in Washington, D.C., this week criticizing the agency’s planned relocation out West.

The BLM says the move is about bringing decision makers closer to the lands they manage. But former BLM Director Bob Abbey says there’s a different motive behind the agency’s decision to relocate more than 150 top employees to Western states.

“We believe that this reorganization plan that was submitted by the Department of Interior is just a blueprint for dismantling the agency itself,” Abbey said from Washington, where the group of six BLM retirees is making the rounds on Capitol Hill this week. They’re urging lawmakers to add language in the 2020 appropriations bill blocking the reorganization plan. 

Abbey ran the BLM during the Obama administration. He says top officials are choosing to quit or retire rather than move their families from Washington to Grand Junction, Colorado, and other cities in the West, causing a “brain drain.”

“The people with some of the most experience in managing public lands for decades are no longer going to be working in the agency and they’re going to have to be replaced,” Abbey said.

In a statement, the BLM says they are moving ahead with the relocation and have cooperated with Congress at all points. 

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City, KUNR in Nevada, the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.

Nate Hegyi is the Utah reporter for the Mountain West News Bureau, based at KUER. He covers federal land management agencies, indigenous issues, and the environment. Before arriving in Salt Lake City, Nate worked at Yellowstone Public Radio, Montana Public Radio, and was an intern with NPR's Morning Edition. He received a master's in journalism from the University of Montana.
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