By Matthew Anderson
Published on May 7, 2018

Originally published by The Hill.

The Department of the Interior is facing the largest reorganization in its 168-year history. Hundreds of millions of acres will be profoundly impacted by the choices the department makes in the coming month. Of the many crossroads and decisions it faces, where the Interior Department decides to relocate the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is among the most significant.

The answer is clear: The BLM should be moved to Utah, the “Crossroads of the West.” Utah earned this nickname because of its central location in the West. A steady flow of traffic has crossed its expanses throughout its history as Native Americans, mountain men, pioneers and other travelers have made it a waypoint in their journeys. It’s my hope that soon the BLM will see Utah as more than just a place to pass through when managing public lands across the West — and instead, decide to call it home.

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Almost two-thirds of Utah is federally managed public land, and of that, the BLM administers more than 22 million acres, or 43 percent of the state. With so much BLM land in Utah, it makes sense for the agency’s headquarters to relocate here, taking them to the heart of what they manage.

By living and working in Utah, BLM employees will better understand how management decisions affect the land and the locals. Surrounded by public lands, our federal partners will more fully appreciate Utahns’ recreational, spiritual, economic and cultural connection to the place we call home. They can enjoy firsthand the fruits of their labors as they explore Utah’s wild places.

When BLM employees aren’t hiking, biking or camping in Utah’s five national parks or its plentiful mountains and red rock country, they can expect to enjoy a quality of life second to none. Utah’s young population and strong family culture has it ranked as the No. 1 state for family well-being and prosperity, according to the Family Prosperity Index.

Utah consistently leads the nation as the best state for business and economic outlook and is the third best state for education in the country. Utah also ranks second in its transportation infrastructure.

The BLM as an institution will also benefit greatly from the move to Utah. For decades, Westerners have felt that the agency, located thousands of miles away, doesn’t hear or understand our culture, opinions and needs. This has resulted in frustration, tension and in some cases resentment of the BLM. Moving the bureau to Utah will act as a show of good faith and provide a fresh start for the relationship between the BLM and the people it serves. The move, combined with a renewed rapport, will encourage Utahns and others across the West to fill the BLM’s job openings — allowing Westerners to live where their roots are and manage the public lands they love.

The Interior Department should be applauded for its efforts to restructure and make government more responsive to the American people, especially those whose livelihoods and futures are tied to our public lands. Moving the BLM to the West is the next step, and nowhere is better suited to house this federal agency than the state of Utah.

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Matt Anderson is director of Sutherland Institute’s Coalition for Self-Government in the West. He has been featured in local, national and international media, including BBC, NPR, C-SPAN, Buzzfeed, the Washington Examiner and a variety of Associated Press articles. Matt is a regular contributor to The Hill and Deseret News.

Matt graduated from Utah State University in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in political science and is pursuing a master’s of political science with an emphasis in public lands policy. He is an active member of his community – volunteering on political campaigns, serving as a state delegate and precinct chair – and he is involved with a number of conservation organizations. When Matt isn’t working on public policy, you are likely to find him in Utah’s Bear River Mountain Range fly-fishing, hunting or ATV riding.

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