Federal land ownership

Recently, media reports have said that the Trump administration has decided to move the headquarters of the Bureau of Land Management from Washington, D.C., to Grand Junction, Colorado.

The Interior Department, the parent agency of the BLM, has yet to confirm the news, but the administration has made moving the headquarters to a Western state a key part of its plan to reorganize the department.

A bipartisan coalition of members of Congress from Western states put forward legislation last year to mandate such a move.

Interior Department officials have said they were considering Grand Junction as well as Denver; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Boise, Idaho; and Salt Lake City for the new headquarters.

Whether Western Colorado or some other city becomes the BLM’s new home, we support the move.

The logic of moving the BLM west isn’t hard for people in the West to understand.

Ninety-nine percent of the 250 million acres managed by the BLM is west of the Mississippi River. Its decisions impact the livelihoods of people who populate rural communities, but those decisions are made far from the forests, grasslands and high deserts they call home.

Not everyone is in love with the idea, particularly members of the ruling class and the special interests that court influence inside the Washington beltway.

Critics say the BLM and other agencies need to be headquartered in the capital to be included in budget and policy discussions. But having all those discussions in Washington is part of the problem. That’s better for K Street lobbyists and the special interests, but not so good for the people those policies impact.

While it’s true that less than 5% of the bureau’s 9,000 employees are stationed in D.C., they have more say and less access to the national treasures they administer than their colleagues in the field.

The BLM isn’t the only agency the administration seeks to move out of the greater District of Columbia. There are also plans to move the Economic Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture to Kansas City.

The elite hate that idea, too.

They proffer the same arguments in both cases. It will cost money to move these agencies out to the countryside, and probably won’t save any in the long run. They say valuable employees will be lost if forced to move from the beltway.

All of these moves will cost money, and we’ve yet to see the government do anything that actually saves any money. We have a harder time believing that we will lose a huge amount of human capital if agencies are moved from Washington. It is probable there are a great many people who would find government service more rewarding if it carried with it an affordable duty station outside D.C.

We think the real value of these plans is to keep the government close to the governed. That scares the ruling class the most.

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