Guest Editorial: If BLM's HQ moves west, will Zinke get a statue?

Farmington Daily Times
Ryan Zinke

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has his critics, but if he succeeds in relocating the Bureau of Land Management's headquarters to a western state from Washington, D.C., he'll secure a place in history as a friend of conservation.

Whatever policy agenda Zinke and Interior agencies pursue during these Trump years, there's no question in our minds that having BLM decision-makers living among the public lands they administer —the vast majority in the West — will result in more effective land management programs and a more responsive agency long after Trump leaves office.

The credit isn't Zinke's alone. Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner has been pushing the idea for two years and it gained serious traction beginning last fall. But it was Zinke's willingness to consider the idea that led to this week's announcement that Interior "absolutely" intends to make this happen.

Unfortunately, there's still the small matter of congressional authorization. If Democrats win a majority in either chamber this fall, who's to say they won't block the move as a political middle finger to the Trump administration? If that happens, you can bet it won't involve any Colorado representatives. Sen. Michael Bennet, a Democrat, has joined Gardner and Rep. Scott Tipton in pushing for the move in general and for Grand Junction, specifically, to become the BLM's new home.

Colorado's 3rd Congressional District "serves as a microcosm of almost every Western land-management issue," Tipton said in a news release. He's right about that, but only one city on the Western Slope has the critical mass to offer the quality of life we suspect Interior is looking for.

Where else in the district is there a combination of affordable housing and an airport capable of delivering a non-stop flight to Washington, D.C.? What county has a greater percentage of land in BLM's inventory?

In March, Zinke said during a House Natural Resources Committee hearing he wanted the BLM to go to a community with a high quality of life that's affordable to middle-tier employees, "... great communities where we can attract millennials who will want to live there."

Denver, of course, if one of the nation's premier millennial destinations, but housing is expensive and traffic is a nightmare. Grand Junction has made great strides promoting an outdoors lifestyle attractive to millennials. There's no better place for outdoor recreational pursuits or to raise a family.

But Zinke shouldn't take our word for it. He should come here and see for himself that Grand Junction checks all the boxes for what Interior is looking for in a BLM headquarters location. He's been invited by Colorado's congressional delegation and we urge him to accept now that a serious analysis is underway to determine the most suitable location for the headquarters.

We'll even show him where his statute among Grand Junction "legends" will be located.

Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, July 23