Home Secretary Deb Haaland told employees at the Bureau of Land Management headquarters today that the agency is working to determine how best to “repair the damage” from the era move. Trump in Grand Junction, Colorado, but a decision has yet to be made.
Still, Haaland seemed to be inclined to bring at least some senior BLM executives back to Washington, DC, during an online listening session today with headquarters staff.
“My main concern is your well-being as we find out how to repair the damage that has been done and restore the efficiency of BLM headquarters operation,” Haaland told employees, according to audio obtained by E&E News . “The BLM headquarters move dispersed staff and programs across the West.”
Haaland, who is in Grand Junction and is expected to visit the headquarters office later today and meet with local government officials who would like the headquarters to remain in Colorado, noted that only 41 staff of the 328 positions were directed last year to Grand Junction or other elected state offices to do so. A total of 287 employees, or 87%, have retired or left BLM for other positions within the Home Office, “leading to a loss of institutional memory and talent that will take years to complete. to replace”.
Haaland asked employees to give him the “unvarnished truth” about the move and how it affected them personally and their work duties.
On this point, employees have expressed mixed reactions to the move.
Many staff agreed that the relocation was traumatic for their families, and they lamented the loss of many senior officials who did not move.
A Washington-based employee during the move described it as “one of the most devastating experiences I have ever had to see the anger, fear and loss involved.”
She added: “It was shameful and very sad.”
Another employee who chose to relocate described the experience as “the most traumatic experience my family has ever had”.
Another DC employee reassigned to Colorado demanded a return to Washington, saying it would “start to repair the damage, this organizational damage.”
But others called for caution.
A former Washington-based staff member said the move worked for him. He urged the Interior “not to assume that the staff who have moved are unhappy”.
“I definitely recognize the hardships many went through” on the move, the employee said. But he added: “The move was actually a good thing for some people.”
Returning to Washington now, he said, would be “doubly difficult” for him.
Another employee echoed the sentiment, saying he would likely lose staff if the head office was moved back.
Other staff urged BLM to take “a flexible approach” that would include allowing western employees to stay there and work remotely.
The online listening session with Haaland and his visit to the new headquarters today is just the latest development in Interior’s ongoing review of the plight of Colorado Headquarters and the dozens of other employees who have been moved to BLM state offices across the West. The move to Grand Junction was completed last year.
The Trump administration has argued that moving BLM’s headquarters westward would improve the office’s operations, placing most of its top executives closer to the 245 million acres it manages.
Nada Culver, deputy director of policy and programs at BLM, told city hall employees online in April that the headquarters decision “is the big question” the office faces (Green wire, April 14).
In the months that followed, the Home Office continued an internal review, most recently with a large staff-wide investigation.
At another online town hall last month, this time with headquarters staff, Culver admitted she had little new information to say, but vowed to keep employees apprised of the headquarters decision. She also expressed optimism that more details would be available soon (PM E&E News, June 23).
Culver told staff members during today’s online listening session that she sympathizes with employees being forced to relocate.
Culver said she didn’t realize how “disruptive” the move was to the office until she joined BLM in March. In the months that followed, she said, she realized “how damaging and traumatic this has been for hundreds of employees and their families.”
But, like employees who urged flexibility if a return to DC is made, Culver vowed that the Home Office would not “arbitrarily” make changes without considering how they would affect the functions of the headquarters office.
“It won’t be an easy knot to untangle, but together I am confident we can find a way forward,” she said.