Republicans steamed over the Biden administration’s decision to pull the main Bureau of Land Management headquarters out of Colorado are pointing the finger at the state’s Democratic Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper.
Both senators have supported keeping the agency based in Grand Junction, where it was moved last year, but Rep. Lauren Boebert, Colorado Republican, said Friday that they “folded” instead of using their leverage to hold up President Biden’s nominees.
“The fight to keep the Bureau of Land Management in Grand Junction was always bipartisan, but when it came down to the wire, Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper folded and failed to stand up for Colorado by using procedural tools to leverage the Biden regime to keep the main Bureau of Land Management headquarters, Director, and senior leadership in Grand Junction,” Ms. Boebert said in a statement.
She cited the example of Sen. Gary Peters, Michigan Democrat, who put a hold on multiple Biden picks after the White House bypassed Selfridge Air National Guard Base for the F-35 training center, ultimately securing a commitment in July to retain and upgrade the base’s A-10 fleet.
“The junior senator from Michigan held up eight high-level Department of Defense nominations to leverage a win for his state, but Bennet and Hickenlooper combined couldn’t find the courage to place a hold on just one nominee,” said Ms. Boebert.
In July, Ms. Boebert and fellow Colorado Republican Reps. Ken Buck and Doug Lamborn urged the Democratic senators to “do the right thing for Colorado by refusing to advance the nomination of Tracy Stone-Manning” absent a commitment to keep the agency in Grand Junction.
No vote has been scheduled before the full Senate on Ms. Stone-Manning, whose nomination to lead the BLM has stirred fierce opposition stemming from her involvement in a 1989 tree-spiking case in Idaho.
Colorado Republican Party chairwoman Kristi Burton Brown said that “Bennet and Hickenlooper are directly responsible for this loss.”
“Senator Bennet and Senator Hickenlooper have now failed Colorado twice — losing BOTH Space Command HQ and the Bureau of Land Management HQ,” said Ms. Brown. “It’s absolutely pathetic that Bennet and Hickenlooper have stood by, done nothing, and supported the Democrat nominees who made this anti-Colorado decision.”
Mr. Bennet said he was “disappointed” by Interior Secretary Deb Haaland’s decision Friday to move the agency’s base back to Washington after a year in Colorado, but that he “welcomed the prospect of the BLM Western Headquarters.”
“While I am disappointed that the national headquarters will be in Washington, I believe establishing and growing a permanent BLM Western Headquarters in Grand Junction should be a very positive development,” said Mr. Bennet in a statement.
He said he would “hold the Administration accountable to ensure that the BLM Western Headquarters is permanent, fully staffed, and informed by the voices of the Rocky Mountain West.”
Mr. Hickenlooper also emphasized the positive, saying that the “dual headquarters should restore a fully-functioning BLM while ensuring the agency has strong, lasting ties to the West.”
The Democrats blamed the Trump administration for failing to staff the office in Grand Junction, a town of 62,000 near the Utah border. Only three BLM workers made the move, while 287 of 328 either retired or quit.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis praised the dual-offices concept as a “truly pragmatic path forward.”
“The bottom line is that more senior BLM officials and decision-makers moving to the Grand Junction office is a good thing for Colorado and our country,” said the Democratic governor. “The initial presence was far too small and now I’m finally hopeful that the office will grow.”
Western Caucus chairman Dan Newhouse, who had previously called on the senators to secure a commitment from Ms. Stone-Manning to keep the national office in Grand Junction, said Friday it was not too late.
“The Biden Administration’s betrayal of rural America will not be forgotten,” said Mr. Newhouse, Washington Republican. “The question now is for Colorado Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper: Will you still vote to confirm Tracy-Stone Manning if she does not commit to reversing this terrible decision for the people of Colorado?”
Ms. Stone-Manning opposed the agency leadership’s move from Washington to Colorado, saying in 2019 that “an expensive and unnecessary relocation for the BLM is as irresponsible as it is ill-advised,” according to the Grand Junction Sentinel.
The bureau, which has a staff of about 7,000 across the country, manages 245 million acres of federal land, nearly all of it in 12 Western states.