Grand Junction finds an ally in Joe Neguse as it works to keep Bureau of Land Management HQ
As the conservative city of Grand Junction works to keep the Bureau of Land Management’s headquarters, it has found an unlikely liberal ally on the other side of the mountains.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse wrote a letter to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland on Wednesday, urging Haaland to keep BLM’s headquarters on the Western Slope. The headquarters moved there from Washington, D.C., in 2019 to the chagrin of some Democrats, including Haaland and Tracy Stone-Manning, President Joe Biden’s nominee to run BLM.
“Simply put, the mission of the BLM is critically important to the country, and especially to Colorado,” wrote Neguse, of Lafayette. “For both the benefit of our state — and to ensure full operations of the BLM — I support the headquarters remaining in Grand Junction, as well as increased hiring and staffing for the purposes of keeping the headquarters in Colorado.”
Neguse is friends with Haaland, a former progressive congresswoman from New Mexico, and he also chairs the U.S. House subcommittee that oversees BLM. Those in Grand Junction who are concerned about losing the headquarters say he is an ideal advocate, despite other ideological differences.
“He was adamant about how he could help, which really was welcome on this side of the mountains,” Scott McInnis, a Mesa County commissioner and former six-term Republican congressman, said in an interview Tuesday. “It’s been awhile since we had a congressman from that area call over and see how they could help.”
Neguse is a member of the House Natural Resources Committee and his stance on the BLM headquarters puts him at odds with the committee’s Democratic chairman, Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva, who has criticized the move to Colorado and urged Haaland to reverse it.
“This ill-conceived, poorly planned and shoddily executed effort damaged a critical land management agency,” Grijalva wrote to Haaland last month, stating that 87% of BLM staff left the agency rather than move to Grand Junction and calling it a “drastic staff exodus.”
McInnis, who once chaired the same public lands subcommittee that Neguse now does, said he’s impressed that Neguse is willing to spend political capital advocating for Grand Junction.
“This pits a really junior congressman against a chairman, but while the congressman is junior in seniority, he’s one of the most recognized up-and-comers in Washington, D.C., so to have him in our battle is refreshing,” McInnis said of Neguse, a 37-year-old who first took office in 2019.
McInnis talked with Neguse last week, a conversation Neguse initiated. On Tuesday morning, Neguse spoke with a larger group of Grand Junction politicians and economic developers about what he planned to tell Haaland.
McInnis and Grand Junction Mayor Chuck McDaniel say Neguse did not need convincing.
“I think he was there, he was just getting some more information, is my impression,” McDaniel said.
Rep. Lauren Boebert, a Silt Republican, has also urged Haaland to keep the headquarters in Grand Junction. So, too, have Gov. Jared Polis and Democratic Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper. In February, Haaland pledged to visit the headquarters but a date has not been set.
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