SALT LAKE CITY — The Bureau of Land Management federal office appears to still be heading west, even after reports surfaced that the proposed new U.S. Senate budget doesn’t offer compensation for the move.
The Hill reported Tuesday that a final Senate deal offers no funding for the move. It quoted Sen. Tom Udall, D-New Mexico, who said the agency’s move westward was “ill-advised.” Meanwhile, the Department of Interior spokesperson issued a statement afterward saying the BLM relocation “is moving full speed ahead” regardless.
In July, the Department of Interior announced it planned to move its main BLM office in Washington, D.C., to Grand Junction, Colorado. The announcement came after attempts were made by top Utah politicians to bring the agency to Ogden.
In the Tuesday statement, Interior officials said the lease at the BLM’s current Washington office ends at the end of 2020 and about 60 employees will remain stationed in the nation’s capital. The department previously said that about 300 employees will be relocated to Colorado.
Even without the allocated funding in the proposed budget, officials said they planned to provide employees compensation for the move and will leave it to Congress to fund that — which sets up a potential stalemate between the Interior and the Congress.
“As previously approved by Congress, we have the means to complete this relocation and establish the new headquarters in Grand Junction, Colorado,” the statement reads. “The Department intends to give BLM employees their legally authorized compensation and incentives, but ultimately it is up to Congress to decide if they want to deny these benefits to our employees."
It remains unclear what the funding battle will mean for BLM employees.
Meanwhile, KJCT in Grand Junction reported on Monday another possible controversy related to the upcoming move: the building the BLM will move into also houses an oil and gas company, sparking concern from conservationists. The newsgroup said it wasn’t clear when BLM employees will officially move into the new office.