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Can Grand Junction Save Itself by Becoming the Next Home for the Bureau of Land Management?

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As talk of relocating federal agencies to the areas they most directly serve has gained steam, a Colorado town is making a push to house the Department of the Interior’s BLM.

GRAND JUNCTION, Colorado — Perhaps befitting of a city linked to Colorado’s Grand Valley, Grand Junction has been stuck in a rut. Even as western cities like Denver and Salt Lake City, Utah, have boomed, the Great Recession long hovered over this town of 62,000. An economic malaise in Mesa County, in which the city lies, has contributed to some of the state’s highest suicide rates.

Grand Junction is ringed by the stunning red rock canyons of the Colorado National Monument, but hasn’t emerged as a tourist destination. Despite having a four-year college, it’s not seen as an economic hub; a robust oil and natural gas economy faces a rocky future amid the state’s push to renewable energy. Even as jobs have come back, Grand Junction may never get back to pre-recession levels.

But the city has a plan to put itself on the map: convince the Department of the Interior to relocate the headquarters of the Bureau of Land Management there.

Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt has repeatedly said his agency is building a business case for moving the BLM headquarters west, relocating upwards of 300 federal employees. The department has earmarked $60 million to study the move, with a decision expected this fall, sparking an Amazon HQ2-style competition among cities like Boise, Idaho, Tucson, Arizona, and Ogden, Utah—albeit one without competing tax breaks and economic incentives.

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