Rep. Debra Haaland (D-NM), President Joe Biden’s nominee for Secretary of the Interior, testifies during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resource, at the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 24, 2021, in Washington, D.C. Rep. Haaland’s opposition to fracking and early endorsement of the Green New Deal has made her one of President Biden’s more controversial cabinet nominees. (Leigh Vogel-Pool/Getty Images)
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland will visit the Bureau of Land Management’s controversial new headquarters in Grand Junction later this week, Colorado’s two Democratic senators announced on Tuesday.
Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper have both called for the agency’s headquarters to remain in western Colorado, where it was relocated as part of a sweeping reorganization plan enacted by officials in the Trump administration in 2019. A division of the Interior Department, the BLM manages nearly 250 million acres of federally-owned public lands, nearly all of it in the West.
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“With climate change fueling severe drought and catastrophic wildfires, restoring a strong public lands agency and fixing the previous administration’s mistakes is a top priority,” Hickenlooper and Bennet said in a joint statement. “We’re happy to host Secretary Haaland and look forward to productive conversations with Grand Junction community leaders on the future of the BLM headquarters.”
The agency’s relocation to Grand Junction was celebrated by members of both parties in Colorado, but has been the target of criticism from environmental groups and their Democratic allies in Congress, who argue that the move was a poorly disguised attempt to “eviscerate” the agency from within. Of the hundreds of senior BLM employees who were reassigned to offices in Colorado and elsewhere across the West, only a few dozen accepted relocation, with just three accepting relocation to the Grand Junction headquarters.
Haaland will visit Grand Junction on Friday, Hickenlooper and Bennet said in a press release, and her trip “will also include meetings on several other Colorado priorities,” including climate change impacts and the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act, a package of public-lands proposals endorsed by Colorado Democrats.
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