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ICYMI: Could Ogden Be New Home for BLM Headquarters?

By: Amy Joi O’Donoghue

Deseret News 

Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, is bringing his U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources to the state next week to convene a field hearing in Roosevelt and to tour the Ogden area with a top Interior official overseeing the agency's reorganization.

Susan Combs, acting assistant secretary for policy, management and budget at the Department of the Interior, will visit several areas in Ogden, including the Federal Building, which is home to the regional headquarters for the U.S. Forest Service.

Since Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced his intention to reorganize the agency, states in the West are vying for consideration of being the new home for the Bureau of Land Management's headquarters. Utah and Colorado have repeatedly surfaced as top contenders.

"We will talk about a couple of things," Bishop said. "We want to talk about the overall reorganization to bring all the agencies in an area together, but we specifically wanted to show what kind of opportunities there will be for businesses that are in outdoor recreation. And yes, she will be looking at places."

Combs, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and Sarah Lehman, CEO of Enve Composites, which manufactures carbon fiber components for bicycles, will participate in a roundtable discussion with the committee on how the department's reorganization would benefit Utah residents.

That 2 p.m. discussion on Aug. 28 will take place in the Weber County Commission Chambers, 2380 Washington Blvd.

Bishop said he picked Ogden specifically because it is home to a mix of successful outdoor businesses whose leaders need to hear how the reorganization could possibly benefit from them.

He added that the city could be a realistic choice to host the BLM headquarters, but he has no specific knowledge about possible candidates.

"I think the U.S. Department of the Interior has indicated they are looking at a lot of places in the West which have close air traffic control, a workforce that is compatible and good living standards. Obviously that will be in the mix," he said.

Bishop, who chairs the House Natural Resources Committee, will convene a field hearing at 2 p.m. on Aug. 29 at Union High School in Roosevelt, where committee members will discuss the connection between energy and education.

He said they will dive into a bipartisan energy bill that streamlines permitting, and committee members will get a chance to hear firsthand what type of regulatory hurdles exist in the industry and how that affects education dollars.

"There are some businesses that have picked up and pulled away because they got so tired of waiting for the permitting process," Bishop said.

A State School Board member, local county commissioners and an industry representative are among those slated to participate in the hearing.

Finally on Aug. 30 at the state Capitol, the committee will host a forum on catastrophic wildfires and what can be done to stop them.

"I think Utah has a unique perspective that needs to be heard," Bishop said.

Participants include former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the GOP candidate running to replace retiring Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Herbert and Utah State Forester Brian Cottam.

Bishop said leaders beyond the West need to understand the pressing challenges of tinder-dry conditions.

"It has to stop, it has to stop in some particular way," Bishop said, stressing the need for land management reforms for rangeland and forests.

"All of these issues are significant to this committee, and I think Utah has a unique perspective that needs to be heard," Bishop said.