High Country News
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High Country News

Observe the BLM’s displacement

Moving land-management HQ out of Washington illustrates the ‘deconstruction of the administrative state.’

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt visits Hoover Dam, Nevada. | U.S. Department of the Interior

In 2017, Steve Bannon, then-chief strategist for the Trump administration, told a conservative gathering that the administration’s first-round Cabinet appointees were selected in order to carry out the “deconstruction of the administrative state” by repealing regulations and otherwise dismantling government agencies. Bannon was articulating what most observers already knew. After all, Trump’s appointees were, for the most part, either woefully unequipped for the job or openly hostile to the agencies they would lead.

Many of those first-round picks are now gone, but their successors have carried on the deconstruction agenda, some with even greater fervor. Perhaps nowhere have they had more success than within the Department of Interior, particularly the Bureau of Land Management, which oversees some 245 million acres of public land. Ryan Zinke, Trump’s first Interior secretary, and now his successor, David Bernhardt, have rescinded regulations, tossed out plans to save the imperiled sage grouse, streamlined oil and gas permitting, and made it easier for mining and drilling companies to avoid paying royalties on the public’s minerals. Now, in what may be the ultimate manifestation of the agency’s deconstruction, Bernhardt is moving the BLM’s national headquarters from Washington, D.C., to Grand Junction, Colorado.

This letter, from William Perry Pendley to BLM employees, provides a glimpse into the workings of the move and the context surrounding it.

You can read the contents of that letter here: https://www.hcn.org/issues/52.2/bureau-of-land-management-observe-the-blms-displacement

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