The Bureau of Land Management official overseeing management of endangered species, wild horses and other resource planning issues will step down from his post instead of moving back to the bureau’s newly restored national headquarters in Washington, D.C.
David Jenkins, the assistant director of resources and planning who was originally hired to the position in 2020 and stationed in Grand Junction, Colo., announced to his staff Tuesday that he will step down from that position next month.
Jenkins said in the email to staff obtained by E&E News that he would stay at BLM as the bureau’s new chief of the education, cultural and paleontological resources division in Grand Junction, where the Trump administration had moved the national headquarters. The division is in the National Conservation Lands and Community Partnerships department, which is staying in Grand Junction as the Biden administration moves most of the other top jobs back to Washington.
“I’ve decided to step down from my AD position so that I can remain in Grand Junction,” Jenkins wrote. “My parents, in their mid-nineties, live in Salt Lake City, and I visit them regularly. My moving to DC would have been hard on all of us.”
Brian St. George, the deputy assistant director for the department, will take over next month for Jenkins as acting assistant director, BLM said in a statement.
The Resources and Planning Department is responsible for threatened and endangered species, compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act and managing wild horses and burros, among other things.
BLM said in its statement that the bureau “will recruit to fill the vacant Assistant Director position as soon as possible, to be based in Washington, DC.”
The statement noted that Jenkins is an anthropologist, saying he is “uniquely qualified to lead the BLM’s education, cultural and paleontology efforts.”
Jenkins in his email thanked BLM Director Tracy Stone-Manning for recognizing “the importance of family and I appreciate her working with me on this transition.”
The assistant directors from six of the seven BLM directorates are moving back to Washington as part of a plan Stone-Manning outlined last year detailing the Biden administration’s effort to restore the national headquarters in the nation’s capital (Greenwire, Sept. 8, 2022).
The lone exception is the assistant director of national conservation lands and community partnerships, which will anchor the Grand Junction office as part of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland’s plan to convert it into the bureau’s “Western hub.”
Haaland announced in 2021 that she was reversing the Trump-era move (E&E News PM, Sept. 17, 2021).
The six assistant directors moving back to Washington had until December 2022 to do so, according to Stone-Manning’s email.
Stone-Manning’s plan for moving BLM’s headquarters back to Washington appears to be causing some of the same problems that the Trump-era move out West caused in terms of losing senior staffers.
Jenkins is now the second BLM department head in Grand Junction to resign in the last year rather than move to Washington as part of the reorganization.
Matthew Buffington resigned as assistant director of communications in September 2022. He did so because he also wanted to stay near family in the West and did not want to move to Washington, a senior Interior Department official with knowledge of the situation told E&E News at the time (Greenwire, Aug. 26, 2022).
Buffington now works as director of strategic partnerships for NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley, according to his LinkedIn page.
Buffington, like Jenkins, was hired during the Trump administration in Grand Junction.
The Trump relocation out West in 2020 prompted at least 135 senior staffers assigned to Washington to retire, resign or move to a different Interior Department agency rather than move to Grand Junction or to other state offices in the West.
Resource and Planning was hit particularly hard by the move to Grand Junction, losing a number of senior officials based in Washington who did not want to move to Colorado (Greenwire, Aug. 28, 2020).
But the assistant director of resources and planning is a senior executive service position; people in those jobs can be involuntarily transferred for any reason to a different position or location within BLM or any Interior agency.
Jenkins said in his email to staff that his time working with them “has been a pleasure.”
“I admire all of you, and wish you continued success,” he wrote. “Your work matters.”
He added, “I think we’ve built an integrated and forward-thinking team and I trust you will continue to be integrated and forward-thinking.”