The Bureau of Land Management in Colorado has reorganized its districts for the second time in four years, a move that means Grand Junction will be home to a district manager again.
The change also aligns the new districts with the boundaries of interagency federal fire management units in Colorado, which ended up being a driving factor behind how the new district lines were drawn. BLM spokesman Jayson Barangan said the BLM gathered a lot of input from employees, stakeholders, BLM Resource Advisory Committee members, Colorado’s congressional delegation, counties and tribes as it considered the change.
“The overwhelming topic of discussion was that the district offices did not align with our fire units and that represented a liability,” he said.
The new BLM districts are:
■ the newly created Upper Colorado River District, made up of the Grand Junction and Colorado River Valley field offices with district headquarters at the Grand Junction Field Office.
■ the Northwest Colorado District, including the Little Snake Field Office in Craig, White River Field Office in Meeker and the Kremmling Field Office. The Colorado River Valley Field Office in Silt previously was part of this district.
■ the Southwest Colorado District, including the Uncompahgre Field Office in Montrose, the Tres Rios Field Office in southwest Colorado and the Gunnison Field Office, which had been part of the Rocky Mountain District. The Grand Junction Field Office for the past four years was part of this district, headquartered in Montrose.
■ The Rocky Mountain District, now comprising the Royal Gorge and San Luis Valley field offices. The Royal Gorge office is based in Cañon City but includes all of eastern Colorado.
The new districts now generally overlap with existing fire management units. Locally, the Upper Colorado River Interagency Fire Management Unit consists of the Grand Junction and Colorado River Valley field offices and White River National Forest.
Barangan said the change resolved the split chain-of-command issue that previously arose due to discrepancies between BLM districts and interagency fire management units. It improves lines of authority, thus improving fire management and safety for wildland firefighters and the public, he said.
The BLM is currently working to fill the new Upper Colorado River district manager position, as well as currently vacant district manager and associate district manager slots in the Northwest Colorado District.
Barangan said that after the 2016 redistricting, the BLM in Colorado committed to re-evaluate it at some point and check on its efficiencies and how it was working, a process it undertook last year.
Mesa County Commissioner John Justman in 2016 had voiced concern about moving the Grand Junction Field Office into the Southwest Colorado District from the Northwest district. He served at the time on the Northwest district’s Resource Advisory Council to the BLM, and felt Mesa County shares more common interests with Northwest Colorado, particularly when it comes to the oil and gas development common to Garfield, Mesa and other Northwest Colorado counties.
He said he thinks the new redistricting results in “a much better fit” for Mesa County.
Barangan said the Upper Colorado River Field Office won’t have its own Resource Advisory Council, but instead the Northwest council will cover both the Northwest Colorado and Upper Colorado River districts.
For now, the redistricting has less consequence than normal as it pertains to BLM Resource Advisory Councils in the state because they currently don’t have quorums and as a result aren’t meeting. Barangan said the BLM has nominated RAC members and those appointments currently are being vetted by the Interior Department. He said the BLM still stays engaged with those still on the councils through informal updates.