BLM relocates staff to western states from Washington D.C.
As the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) plans to relocate staff to Grand Junction, Colo. to create a western headquarters, only 15 employees will be reassigned to Wyoming.
Ten of those employees will support the Wyoming BLM from Cheyenne, according to the Washington, D.C. press office.
In response to questions about changes in Wyoming and field offices, the press office sent an e-mail saying, “Under this relocation, BLM positions based in the Washington, D.C. headquarters are primarily being added at the state office level.”
The press office continues, “The relocation of these positions to western locations, such as Cheyenne, will benefit states, as the presence of additional staff who possess experience and expertise in performing duties addressing headquarters priorities, while also meeting the needs of each state’s local, daily operations.”
The Oct. 11 e-mail cites many benefits ahead for BLM. These benefits include more decision-making authority being moved to the field, closer to the lands the BLM manages. Stronger organizational effectiveness will enable closer oversight and accountability. More seasoned, senior staff working closer to junior employees will increase opportunities for mentoring and training of future leaders.
It will improve relationship building with partners and foster better understanding with western communities. Many employees will experience a reduced cost of living.
There are also benefits for taxpayers. The BLM is acquiring less expensive office space, in most cases, while decreasing travel costs.
After the departure of former Pinedale Field Office Manager Caleb Hiner, Doug Linn has been in place as acting director. When asked if field offices or districts might be realigned in Wyoming, state BLM Spokesman Brad Purdy said the current acting positions won’t be affected by the move.
“Outside of the hiring restrictions related to the D.C. move, which state that any GS-12 or above position must first be advertised internally and if a qualified applicant applies BLM would consider this candidate, the move doesn’t have an impact to any of the current acting positions at BLM Wyoming,” Purdy says.
Also, field offices are consolidating more duties with fewer staff, one example being the Rock Springs Field Office doing a large part of environmental analyses for Sublette County lease parcels coming up for sale. Both are in the High Desert District.
“It’s very common for one field office to assist another field office,” Purdy says. “At the end of the day, BLM is a team – no field, district or state office operates in a bubble – we work together.”
Attached to the national BLM press office’s statement was the July 16 letter from then-Assistant Secretary for Lands and Minerals Joe Balash to Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), chair of the Subcommittee on Interior and Environment, describing the BLM’s realignment of resources to the West.
Balash writes, “Time and again Interior Secretary David Bernhardt has received feedback from members of Congress, governors, local officials and citizens closest to the resources that their BLM state, district or field office is understaffed or lacks resources to support the needs of their constituents. Under our proposal, every western state will gain additional staff resources.”
He writes, after 550 positions were evaluated and 166 were already in the field, BLM will allocate 74 headquarters positions to BLM state offices, some of which have been vacant for years.
Cheyenne is slated to get 10 of those state positions, second only to 17 assigned to Nevada, according to the chart provided by Balash.
“With such large leadership numbers of senior leadership located in D.C., policy direction often comes from individuals who have very little interaction with the constituents and the land itself that are most impacted by BLM policies,” Balash writes.
Changes by numbers
Wyoming as a whole will be assigned another five staff members in energy, minerals and realty management for a total of 15 new or reassigned staff.
“Placement in this state is logical given these positions are all directly tied to the BLM’s leasing programs and there is an immediate staffing need to support programs in the Powder River Basin,” he explains in the letter. “Additionally, having the co-lead and economists for these programs located in Wyoming will provide a national leadership presence closest to the majority of the public served by these programs.”
Another immediate need is increased staff for the Wild Horse and Burro Program, communications and National Conservation Lands programs.
Colorado will receive 58 new positions, Nevada will receive 49, Utah will receive 44, Alaska will receive four, Arizona will receive 39, California will receive 20, Idaho will receive 18, Montana will receive three and Oregon will receive five additional positions.
With these moves, he said, travel costs can decrease, relationships can be built through frequent and meaningful engagement and allow problem solving to occur earlier in the decision-making process and facilitating better outcomes when a complex decision or problem arises.
Joy Ufford is a corresponding writer for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.