The Idaho Conservation League remains deeply concerned with the proposed relocation of key Bureau of Land Management staff to Grand Junction, Colorado. Idahoans need the strong voices of career BLM professionals in Washington, D.C. who can advocate for public lands and their stakeholders.
While the idea of “moving decision makers closer to the people they serve” sounds good, 97% of BLM employees already work outside of Washington, D.C. In a recent opinion, two former directors of the BLM, from Republican and Democratic adminstrations, remain united in their “concern about the future of our public lands – BLM state directors and field managers in the West already have the authority to make land-use, leasing and permitting decisions and facilitate coordination with state, tribal and local governments. The 3 percent in Washington focuses on policy, oversight and coordination at the national level with other federal agencies, Congress and national public interest groups. This is work that must be done in Washington to be effective.”
ICL represents 30,000 Idahoans who consider Idaho’s public lands an essential part of our state’s identity. We also regularly interact with other stakeholders who rely on BLM lands for their livelihood and quality of life. These entities include the Owyhee Initiative, mining companies, utilities, outfitters, permittees who graze sheep or cattle, mountain bikers, hikers and trail runners, OHV enthusiasts, botanists and bird watchers, rock hounds, anglers, big game and bird hunters, recreational shooters, and people who just like going for a drive across Idaho’s amazing open spaces.
Although BLM often does not have enough resources to properly manage these lands to best serve multiple uses while also minimizing conflicts, all of these stakeholders find value in these landscapes and rely on the BLM’s engaged management of them. While ICL does not always agree with BLM management decisions, we appreciate having a forum to discuss these issues with professional BLM staff who are familiar with particular issues as well as the relevant ecological, economic and social context.
ICL respectfully requests Idaho’s Congressional delegation to intervene and stop this process. If the true goal is to improve management of BLM lands and place its leadership and staff closer to stakeholders and the resources, there are a number of other steps that could be taken. For instance, Congress could appropriate funding at levels that enable the agency to properly manage these lands for the benefit of the public. Additionally, the administration could reinvest in and properly support the Resource Advisory Council (RAC) program.
As the former BLM directors stated, “With nearly all BLM staff already out West, it’s critical to keep the remaining experienced public servants stationed in Washington, D.C. to speak up for the intrinsic value of our public lands and the communities that rely upon them. Congress must stand up for the BLM, but, more importantly, it must stand up on behalf of all Americans and ensure this step to dismantle public ownership of land and resources doesn’t happen. These are your lands. Let’s keep it that way.”