By Martin Kidston/Missoula Current
Industry leaders across Montana have voiced support for a bill introduced by two Colorado Republicans – and backed by Sen. Steve Daines – that would permit the Bureau of Land Management to relocate its headquarters from the nation’s capital to a western state.
The measure, introduced earlier this month by Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner and Rep. Scott Tipton, would enable the agency to place its office in one of 12 western states, including Montana.
Daines, R-Montana, supports the measure.
“The folks who make decisions about our land should have a solid understanding of what it means to have the federal government as your largest neighbor,” Daines said. “In the West, federal land makes up a lot of our states, but those who make decisions about federal land management are thousands of miles away in Washington, D.C.”
The Bureau of Land Management is part of the U.S. Department of the Interior, which is now under the leadership of former Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke. During his confirmation hearing, Zinke, also Republican, said he would consider the idea.
The BLM manages more than 247 million acres of public land, most of it located in the western half of the country. It also oversees oil and gas development on its holdings.
In Montana, the measure has the support of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the Montana Farm Bureau Federation and the Montana Stockgrowers Association.
It also has the support of the Montana Wool Growers Association and the Montana Petroleum Association, which said the BLM’s decisions have “significant impacts” on resource development, grazing and recreation across the West.
“These operations bring with them a tremendous opportunity for substantial economic impact,” said Alan Olsen, executive director of the state petroleum association. “We believe that due to the various agency impacts on Western states, the headquarters for the bureau should be in the region most heavily impacted by bureau decisions.”
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