OGDEN — Other U.S. lawmakers have been pushing hard to promote their states as U.S. Department of the Interior officials mull relocation of certain operations to the west.
U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, figured it was time that leaders here made the case for Utah, Northern Utah and Ogden, more specifically. Hence, the planned visit to Ogden on Tuesday by Susan Combs, a top Interior official, and the planned discussion on the potential benefits to Utah of the department’s ongoing reorganization, which includes the possible relocation of the Bureau of Land Management.
“If you’re going to move (the BLM), Utah makes as much sense as anybody. I know other areas like Colorado, their senators are pushing big time. I thought it’s time to use my chairmanship to push back a little on the side of Utah,” Bishop said Thursday.
Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell said he understands Ogden has been “short-listed” as federal officials weigh possible new locations for BLM headquarters. He’s helped arrange a “windshield tour” of varied sites around the city to aid them in their decision-making, at the request of Interior officials.
“We’d be thrilled to be in that conversation,” Caldwell said.
Combs, Bishop, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and Sarah Lehman, the chief executive officer of Ogden-based ENVE Composites, will take part in the roundtable discussion Tuesday, sponsored by the House Committee on Natural Resources. It starts at 2 p.m. and will be held at Weber County Commission Chambers at the Weber Center, 2380 Washington Blvd.
Before that, Ogden officials will drive Combs around the area and make the case why the city would be a good site to house the BLM, an Interior agency now headquartered in Washington, D.C., that manages public lands, mostly in the western United States. Combs is an acting assistant secretary in the Department of the Interior who’s leading the departmental reorganization.
The federal building in downtown Ogden will be one likely stop, “but they also want to just look at the area,” said Bishop, a Republican from Brigham City whose district includes Ogden and Weber County.
Interior reps want to get a sense of the lifestyle in the area, the available workforce and more, he said, saying proximity of colleges and the airports in Salt Lake City and Ogden bolster the case for relocating to Northern Utah.
Beyond the possible relocation of BLM offices, the Interior reorganization has other potential positive implications for Northern Utah, Bishop said. For instance, streamlining how the varied divisions in the department interact, contemplated as part of the changeover, could benefit the burgeoning local recreation industry in the Ogden area by making it easier for tour guides to get the permits they need. That’s why the rep from ENVE, which makes carbon fiber products used in the bicycle industry, will take part in the roundtable talk.
There are more and more small- and mid-sized companies in the Ogden area involved in recreation and “I wanted them to have an opportunity of being involved and being heard and seeing how this could actually assist them,” Bishop said.
Bishop said St. George and Cedar City have also been mentioned as possible BLM headquarter sites while Caldwell said he’s heard Denver is another candidate. No timeline has been set for relocation of the agency.
Bishop’s committee will host two other discussions in Utah, on energy and education next Wednesday in Roosevelt and on wildfires on Aug. 30 in Salt Lake City. The lawmaker is up for re-election this year and faces a trio of challengers, Democrat Lee Castillo, Eric Eliason of the United Utah Party and Adam Davis of the Green Party.