Denver, July 15 (UPI) -- The headquarters of the U.S. Department of Interior's Bureau of Land Management will move west to Grand Junction, Colo., Sen. Cory Gardner announced Monday.
Gardner, R-Colo, said he had been urging the department to move its headquarters west for two years. U.S. Sen. Michael Bennett, D-Colo., also advocated the move.
"Relocating the Bureau of Land Management to the Western Slope of Colorado will bring the bureau's decision makers closer to the people they serve and the public lands they manage," Gardner said in a statement.
Economic leaders in Grand Junction, about 280 miles west of Denver, have been lobbying the Interior Department for the BLM headquarters. The new interior secretary, David Bernhardt hails from Rifle, Colo.
The BLM manages nearly 245 million acres of federal lands in the West -- in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, Idaho and Oregon. About 9,200 total BLM employees are stationed across the country, but only 350 in Washington, D.C.
The move is part of a $27.6 million appropriations budget proposed by former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke for a reorganization of the agency.
"I do believe fundamentally that moving some more of our folks west has a very big benefit," Bernhardt said at a hearing on Capitol Hill. He said benefits included lower travel times for agency members, and a lower cost of living for employees.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis celebrated the move on Twitter.
"Grand Junction is the perfect location for the BLM because of community support, location closer to the land BLM manages, and the positive impact it will have on our western Colorado economy," Polis said.