Interior Dept. threatens lawmakers who complain about moving BLM HQ

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A top official at the US Department of the Interior has warned that the department may rethink putting government employees in the states of lawmakers who oppose the relocation of the Bureau of Land Management.

Joseph Balash, assistant secretary for Land and Minerals Management, sent letters Wednesday to New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall and Rep. Betty McCollum, both Democrats, pushing back on criticism of the move.

“Given your apparent strong feelings about the Department’s actions and intentions, we pledge to review and reconsider the relocation of additional Departmental resources to your State,” Balash wrote in his letter to Udall, obtained by CNN.

Balash added, “We are also open to working with other delegations that object to additional Departmental resources being allocated to their States.”

The Hill first reported Balash’s letter to the lawmakers on Wednesday night.

Udall and McCollum — who both sit on congressional appropriations committees — wrote a letter last Friday calling on the bureau to freeze its plans to relocate staffers across the country and move the BLM headquarters to Grand Junction, Colorado.

The effort has faced opposition from current and former Washington, DC-based BLM employees, who say it will weaken the bureau’s efficiency and influence. BLM argues the headquarters move will place staffers closer to the lands and people they work with. Part of the Interior Department, the bureau manages publicly owned land and natural resources — much of which is in the western United States.

“I will not accept any attempts by the administration to steamroll Congress in their efforts to deliberately dismantle and weaken the BLM,” Udall told CNN in a statement Wednesday.

McCollum also criticized Balash’s response, saying in a statement that the letter “continues the pattern of this administration’s failure to recognize Congress’ role as a co-equal branch of government.”

“I expect to work with the administration on reorganizations and reprogrammings in a manner of mutual respect,” she added, “But it is not acceptable to circumvent Congress.”