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Washington, D.C. Dec. 16, 2019 – Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) wrote to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt today requesting a full analysis of the staffing consequences of Bernhardt’s forced transfer of D.C.-based Bureau of Land Management (BLM) employees to locations across the West. The forced move, which has been widely criticized as poorly planned and incompetently executed, is likely to result in approximately 80 percent of affected employees leaving the agency.

In today’s letter, available at http://bit.ly/36DrMZV, Grijalva asks Bernhardt for three pieces of information:

  1. The number of Washington, D.C.-based BLM employees asked to relocate that have declined the reassignment;
  2. The positions that will be vacant because a staffer declined the reassignment or obtained another position outside the BLM; and
  3. Documentation of BLM’s plans to fill those vacant positions. 

Grijalva notes that the Committee wrote to the Department of the Interior (DOI) “on April 10, July 23, September 25, November 14, and December 4 requesting additional documents and information regarding the BLM’s plan. To date, DOI has failed to provide any meaningful analysis or documentation to justify the proposed reorganization of agency staff.”

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Acting BLM Director William Perry Pendley testified to the Committee on Sept. 10 that as far as the Trump administration is concerned, “Our desire is not to lose a single employee” as part of the move. As Eric Katz reported for Government Executive, “He added, however, that BLM has conducted no analysis to determine how many employees will actually leave, aside from a ‘rough estimate’ based on historical data suggesting 25 percent of impacted employees would retire or separate from the agency.”

At a Sept. 26 hearing before the Committee, DOI Solicitor Daniel Jorjani was forced to admit he had no explanation for why DOI had replied to previous requests for documents with multiple pages of Wingdings, entirely blacked-out pages, blank pages and other nonsensical material.

As Bobby Magill wrote for Bloomberg at the time, Jorjani “refused to answer questions about Interior’s reorganization of the Bureau of Land Management, including the relocation of BLM headquarters to Grand Junction, Colo. He referred questions to other BLM and Interior officials.”
BLM claimed in a Dec. 12 statement to Politico that it will continue a “rolling production” of documents to the Committee “as we are able.”