GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (AP) — Western Colorado officials say they have the perfect place if the federal Bureau of Land Management decides to move its Washington, D.C. headquarters closer to the vast lands the agency administers:
"My greatest fear is that we will wake up to an announcement and we're not ready for it," Bonnie Petersen, executive director of the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado, told The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel.
"If we don't do something to pull together a proposal, we could lose out."
That includes potential competition from Colorado's more populous Front Range that straddles the eastern slopes of the Continental Divide.
"I've heard from a number of Front Range communities saying, 'We should have that here,'" Petersen said.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, a former U.S. representative from Montana, has broached the idea of a westward move. The BLM manages nearly 400,000 square miles (1 million square kilometers) of public land. Its headquarters staff numbers 600; more than 8,000 agency employees work in the field.
Colorado Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner and Rep. Scott Tipton have introduced legislation urging the Interior Department to move the agency to a Western state. Gardner told the Sentinel it's about "better decision-making" and to "break it away from the Washington power monopoly."
Both have noted that western Colorado's Mesa County and the city of Grand Junction are logical locations; the BLM administers about 45 percent of Mesa County, which encompasses about 3,340 square miles (8,650 square kilometers).
The nearby city of Montrose is interested, though nothing formal is in the works, said Sandy Head, executive director of the Montrose Economic Development Corp.
"Getting the BLM to the Western Slope is like Amazon going to Denver," Head said of metropolitan Denver's bid to attract a second headquarters for the Seattle-based behemoth.