The changes underway at the U.S. Bureau of Land Management might not seem like much: A few hundred employees are being relocated from offices near the White House and dispersed throughout the West, while agency leaders move in next door to energy companies in newly leased headquarters in Grand Junction, Colorado.
But along with the appointment of a self-described Sagebrush Rebel as acting director, the shuffling of staff could help position conservatives to accomplish substantial political goals: expanding fossil fuel development, easing national environmental protections, and shifting more power to state governments for managing federal forests and energy development.
Many environmental advocates are watching warily in light of what the changes could mean for environmental policy, including actions related to climate change.
“Their steps threaten to set back efforts to manage our public lands as part of a national climate solution,” said Chase Huntley of the Wilderness Society’s energy and climate program. The extraction and use of fossil fuels from public lands accounts for nearly a quarter of the nation’s carbon dioxide emissions, and the BLM oversees more than 245 million acres of that land as well as 700 million acres of minerals underground. [Continue reading…]