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Blog

Our favorite stories about public lands and opportunities for you to get involved in protecting your outdoor experiences.

 

The BLM Takes a Turn Toward Public Land Sell Offs

Tania Lown-Hecht

Photo credit: Bob Wick, BLM

Photo credit: Bob Wick, BLM

There’s some troubling changes afoot at the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which manages 245 million acres of public land, mostly in the west.  

The BLM manages 245 million acres of public land, mostly in the west, and its mission is “to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.” There is a ton of outdoor recreation on BLM lands, including thousands of miles of trails, mountain biking opportunities, climbing, hiking, camping, and paddling. 

Earlier this summer, Interior Secretary Bernhardt announced that the BLM headquarters would be moving from D.C. to Colorado. On the surface, this might seem to make sense. If most of the land the BLM manages is out west, shouldn’t the headquarters also be out west? In reality, more than 96% of BLM staff already lives and works outside of D.C., mostly in the west. Of more than 10,000 employees at the BLM, just 350 are in DC where they can work closely with other leaders at the Department of Interior and the Forest Service, as well as with Congress.

Many people, including several former leaders at the BLM, thought that the abrupt relocation was part of a larger scheme to transfer or sell off public lands to the states. Relocating offices, especially on short notice, tends to result in losing a high percentage of employees. For career leadership at the BLM, for example, people will have kids in school, spouses, houses, and lives rooted in D.C. that may be difficult to uproot to a small town in a matter of weeks. These kind of relocations are a textbook way to kill an agency by driving long-term staff away, leaving their leadership spots vacant, and then failing to fill them.

The second major shakeup at the BLM is the installment of William Perry Pendley as Acting Director of the BLM. Pendley is an outspoken advocate of selling off America’s public lands, dismantling key conservation laws like the Endangered Species Act, and advancing development interests. He has publicly called for selling off our public lands in the West. Now he is in charge of 245 million acres of public land that he thinks should be on the auction block.

Another issue is that Americans have no say in this appointment. Normally, when the administration nominates someone to run an agency, the president is required to get approval from the Senate. This means that you have some say over who is in charge of the agencies that care for your public lands – you can reach out to your Senators and tell them what you think. But an Acting Director has virtually all the power of a director but without Americans getting to weigh in, since it’s an unofficial appointment. Almost 80% of Americans oppose public land sell offs, but now have little way to speak up against having a land transfer advocate in charge of one of the most important public land agencies.

Here’s what we think you can do now: write your Congresscritters expressing your concern about this appointment, and asking them to hold the administration accountable. We’ve made it easy with the tool below.