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Politics and Policy
KUNR Public Radio is a proud partner in the Mountain West News Bureau, a partnership of public media stations that serve Nevada, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico and Wyoming. The mission is to tell stories about the people, places and issues of the Mountain West.

Interior Secretary Bernhardt Seeks Congressional Funding for Agency Relocations

Bureau of Land Management
The current location of the Bureau of Land Management headquarters, in Washington, D.C.

The Department of the Interior is continuing its push to move some agency headquarters out West by asking Congress to fund the initiative.

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt is asking Congress for $10.5 million in the next fiscal year for the relocation efforts. The department says it plans to choose a new western location for the Bureau of Land Management headquarters later this year. It has also signaled that it may move the U.S. Geological Survey headquarters to the Denver area.

Its reasoning is that agencies should be where the majority of public lands are - in the West.

Patty Limerick with the Center of the American West at the University of Colorado isn't convinced that will help. She says for many Westerners, there is an ingrained distrust of the federal government.

"Where your office is located is not the determinate of how much agility, nimbleness, responsiveness you can show to people with local concerns," she says.

Limerick says because the West is so vast, relocation doesn't solve the problem of having a bureaucracy located far away from the issue.

"This seems to me to be one where you could spend a lot of money and you could end up pretty much where you were before, with a bunch of laws, policies and regulations that were not embraced and found satisfactory by local people," she says.

This latest ask is part of the Interior Department's ultimate plan to consolidate into 12 regions, a plan that began under previous secretary Ryan Zinke, who resigned in December amid ethics investigations.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.