Reorganizing the Federal Government and Why Does Wyden Care So Much About BLM/FS?

here. Norman’s comment reminded me of this piece I read about FS and BLM coordination/reorganization, that describes how Senator Wyden is against “senseless reorganization”. Since I personally think it makes a lot of sense (as opposed to senseless), I was curious as to why he cared.. since the last time this was proposed that I remember from Oregon (Interchange, Reagan Administration), it seemed to me like it was Republican ranchers who opposed it at that time. Do any Oregonians have any ideas for why Wyden has these ideas?

Here’s the story from Wildfire Today.

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden was more vocal than most and expressed his displeasure with the proposal. When the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted on Rep. Zinke’s confirmation as Secretary of the Interior on January 31, Senator Wyden abstained, citing the movement of the FS as a problem. Rep. Zinke was approved in the committee on a vote of 16-6-1 (yes-no-abstain).

A source we talked with on Capitol Hill who asked to remain anonymous told us that after the committee vote Senator Wyden extracted a pledge from Rep. Zinke that if confirmed as Secretary, he would not pursue reorganizing the FS. With that promise, on March 1 the Senator voted for the confirmation in the full Senate.

Just after that vote, the Senator issued a statement, saying in part:

After several discussions, I received an assurance that as secretary of the Interior, Rep. Zinke will focus on doing his job, which includes protecting our special places and managing the forests already within the Interior Department’s control, instead of engaging in senseless reorganization of bureaucracies.
Our Capitol Hill source said now that Secretary Zinke is on the job, he still can’t completely let go of the desire to move the FS.

In fact, when the Secretary spoke before the Public Lands Council on March 28, he talked about a “joint command” of the FS according to E&E news:

“I may not get the Forest Service, but we’re going to work with the Forest Service and figure out how to not be so stove-piped,” the Interior chief said. Zinke indicated that he and Agriculture secretary nominee Sonny Perdue had discussed a “joint command” model like the ones used by the Pentagon to manage personnel across the military services.
Secretary Zinke may be thinking that this arrangement would not violate his promise to Senator Wyden. However, the Senator expressly mentioned he did not want to see “senseless reorganization of bureaucracies”.

3 Comments

  1. We have had, and continue to have “Service First” that crosses BLM-FS “lines” – There are several employees I know of who are split between BLM and FS. This has been going on for many years. And, there are offices, such as the Interagency Offices in Grants Pass and Medford Oregon that have both BLM and FS co-located in the same building. The front desks can sell permits and passes and maps, etc. for both BLM and FS. There are lots of examples of this. Stove-piping (not sure if I really understand what that is) is found in both agencies due to the level of expertise needed to implement specific laws and regulations for everything from roads to recreation to special uses to mining to timber sale contracts, etc.

  2. We had this in Colorado, and also “dual delegation” of authority under the San Juan Public Lands Center and the San Luis Valley Public Lands center. In the case of the SJPLC, a person from the FS was the head of the joint unit and the deputy was from the BLM. However, many people go back and forth during their careers.

    We did a joint management review of the SJ with the BLM, I was the FS lead. Most of the people we talked to both externally and internally thought it was a good idea. There were some bureaucratic difficulties associated with the disconnect between the State Office and the Region in terms of budgets.

    Does it make sense for two agencies who have such similar missions to have different regulations (e.g. FOIA?). Couldn’t the same programs in the same area be harmonized? I don’t know why the experience in Colorado would be so different from Oregon. If I were Zinke or Perdue, I’d sure be looking into it!

    My own experience working on FS minerals projects on FS land was that because of BLM’s authorities, we had a (FS nepa, FS minerals, BLM NEPA, BLM minerals), when it got appealed two sets of appeals regs and two sets of attorneys. My impression is that we can provide better service by doing more than co-locating.. somewhere between dual delegation and combining agencies.

    Dual delegation appeared to be going along fine until the BLM decided to reorganize in the state (taxpayers get 2x the reorganizations to fund with two agencies…) and then was abruptly terminated for reasons that were never clear at my pay grade, if anyone has helpful information please chime in!

    Here’s a link to the San Juan County Commissioners meeting notes in July 2011:
    “BLM District Manager Lori Armstrong was present to explain to the Commissioners the BLM/Forest Service decision to cease the Dual Delegation component of the Service First program. The Commissioners expressed their concerns that they were not informed of this decision earlier. The Commissioner believe the current system was working well and changes will result in reduced services and/or additional expenses. ”
    http://www.sanjuancountycolorado.us/uploads/2/7/4/4/2744655/7-27-11.pdf

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