John Husband, field manager for the Bureau of Land Management Little Snake Field Office, works in his office in Craig. An agency-restructuring plan will have Husband's office working more with officials in a new district office, based in Grand Junction, rather than with the state office in Denver.

Photo by Collin Smith

John Husband, field manager for the Bureau of Land Management Little Snake Field Office, works in his office in Craig. An agency-restructuring plan will have Husband's office working more with officials in a new district office, based in Grand Junction, rather than with the state office in Denver.

BLM rebuilds agency

Grand Junction to become regional office

The Bureau of Land Management plans to restructure its agency to put more authority in local regions rather than in state offices.

The change, approved last year, is expected to transition during the next two years, said John Husband, field manager for the BLM Little Snake Field Office in Craig.

It should not affect the general public, he added. For instance, a landowner who wants to talk about grazing on BLM land still would speak with officials in Craig.

The only difference, Husband said, is that if landowners wanted to appeal the Craig office's decision, they would take their cases to district office in Grand Junction rather than to Denver, where the state office is located.

The federal agency's decision reverses one made in 1999, when district offices were removed to "flatten the layers and eliminate (bureaucratic) layers," Husband said.

The new structure comes with the risk of adding bureaucratic layers, but it shouldn't become burdensome or take much authority away from Craig, he added.

There is one simple reason for this, Husband said: funding.

"It won't be a fully-staffed district office like the old one," he said. "We don't have the money for that."

The BLM does not want to and cannot afford to expand its agency, but it does want to localize regional issues at regional offices.

Whereas before, district offices were responsible for some decision-making at the local field office level, now they will be responsible for internal administrative duties - such as accounts and billing - and higher-level appeal decisions.

"We're trying to be very conscious to not build district offices like they used to be," Husband said.

However, district offices could resume some control over development plans in the future, Husband added. Such plans outline what activity BLM will permit on its land, such as industrial development, wildlife management and outdoor recreation.

The new restructuring should not affect the Craig office's current Resource Management Plan, Husband said. The plan describes how the BLM will manage all natural resources on BLM lands within the Little Snake Field Office, such as natural gas, coal, livestock and wildlife.

The plan was originally expected in 2007, but was delayed for an Environmental Protection Agency air quality study.

The EPA's study is expected in the next few weeks. Its release will be followed by comment and review periods.

The proposed Management Plan could be released by April 2009, Husband said. Then, the document will go through a protest period, a governor's consistency review and protest reviews.

Husband estimated a final decision could be reached by November next year.

Collin Smith can be reached at 875-1794 or cesmith@craigdailypress.com

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