Big move: Interior Secretary Zinke to shift key agency headquarters out of Washington, D.C.

Big move: Interior Secretary Zinke to shift key agency headquarters out of Washington, D.C.
Secretary Zinke arrives for his first day at Interior on horseback with the Park Police. (Image: Screen grab of Wochit video, YouTube)

By Tim Pearce

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is making plans to move the headquarters of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) out of Washington, D.C., to a city in the West.

The federal government owns 640 million acres in the U.S., or roughly 28 percent of the nation’s entire landmass. The BLM manages 248.3 million acres of public land, more than any other agency, according to a March 2017 report by the Congressional Research Service.

Top BLM officials are disconnected from the people who live and work on the land the agency manages. The divide has caused tensions between western land managers and regulators that seem to control land use from hundreds of miles away. The gap separates those impacted by BLM policies from officials running the agency, lawmakers and Trump administration officials say. (RELATED: Zinke Wants Interior Agencies Out Of DC, Moved To Lands They Manage)

“While the BLM has over 10,000 employees, all major decisions are made by just 400 employees based in Washington,” GOP Rep. Scott Tipton of Colorado wrote in a February column. “By moving the headquarters west, decisions would more likely be made by those who understand the land best, resulting in more effective land management programs and policies. As we have seen in the past, a lack of understanding and awareness can lead to some very flawed policies.”

A location for the new headquarters has not been chosen, though some prominent western cities have been mentioned as the next home, such as Denver and Salt Lake City. The Department of the Interior will pick a city for the new headquarters in the next six to eight months.

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