“Political” personnel moves afoot at BLM?

“Sources” say three BLM state directors are being moved:

“Alaska, Colorado and New Mexico have all been involved in controversial energy development and natural resource issues in the past few years, and sources say Interior brass do not view the three state directors at issue as being compatible with the Trump administration’s stated push to promote more oil and gas development and mining activity on federal lands.”

Should anyone in the Forest Service be concerned?

 

10 Comments

  1. SES is a funny thing, you can even get reassigned to other agencies. But people can think you’re not “on board” or compatible with the current administration or other higher-ups for a variety of reasons (I’ve been there). But that’s what elections do, elect people who pick other people, who pick other people, and so on down the chain of command, who get to be in charge.
    People who have observing more closely than me (sources?) say that the tendency has been to be more “political” (checking on whether people are “with the program” down to the 15 level (below SES)) in the last administration. I don’t know whether that’s true.
    When we went to the Federal Court to listen to some Roadless Case a few years ago described in a blog post here, “I think it was Judge Anderson who said “Presidents are entitled to say let’s do this; that’s why they’re elected.” But, of course, if the govs raise too much of a ruckus, I’m sure Zinke will consider that (being a former western gov). Based on my experience, there is probably a lot of convos going on between the States and the Feds that are not described by the press.

  2. Hopefully changes are coming for the western forests also. Maybe we will see land managers who are willing to manage, even within the constraints of our current environmental laws.
    There is so much to be done. Time to get some leaders who have the “can do” type of attitude rather than the “can’t do” that has seemed to dominate for the last 20 years.
    We could probably close our big regional headquarters in the cities and not even miss them.

    • Bob- we went through a series of reorganization, right-sizing, and so on with increasingly imaginative names since I was a little tyke in the 70’s. For the last one (was it Reformation?) we did a lot of thinking and I was in the Regional Office in R2. The Engineers, bless their hearts, did most of the clear incisive thinking. (1) there are some things forests can’t afford and the expertise makes a difference (sorry to say that but in many cases it’s true..the Minerals folks reorganized nationally to provide this service better and we got access to more former regional experts with a broader range of expertise in a timely way because the effort was well-managed)
      (2) Some line officers (I know this is heretical, but…) don’t make good decisions about legalities of things (and probably other things). Say, for example a Ranger was engaged in CE abuse. So there’s an oversight and an expertise role that Regional Offices combine. This could be done other ways but at least in NEPA, it’s easier to keep bad things from happening than to try to clean up after the fact.

    • The Regional Offices also respond to a lot of Congressional and State Inquiries that the forests never see, and, as Sharon says, they take on an oversight role to ensure that forests are being consistent in law and in policy implementation.

  3. It does appear that the Agencies have lost this work season to get much done, especially on time-sensitive stuff like timber salvage in California. The Administration has a steep learning curve ahead of them but, I expect they will underestimate their opponents in upcoming court battles. Plus, they aren’t talking about more budget money to do more things. Nothing about how to get more ‘boots on the ground’.

    I guess if I wanted to “expedite” things, I would designate everything by description, allowing the loggers to pick their trees (within description). You would need people to physically paint the boundaries. You would still need people to monitor logging and verify that the work is acceptable. Expanding the Forest Service just isn’t in the Tea Party’s plans. Outsource the fieldwork, maybe?

    The rudder fell off, long ago but, I think the keel is pretty rotten, too.

    • Boundaries don’t necessarily need to be painted anymore – there is work going on with “virtual” boundaries – so many operators have GPS technology within the cabs of their harvesting equipment that the virtual boundaries can be programmed into their GPS. Fieldwork is being outsourced to the state in many cases, and in some cases to tribes. The State of Oregon has helped finance federal forest restoration for several years now.

      • Actually, in a Designation by Description situation, you have to have solid painted boundaries, to make damn sure they won’t stray outside of the unit. Same for “Leave Tree” situations. GPS units for the general public are not precise enough to trust. Outsourcing fieldwork surely is more expensive than using inexperienced temporary employees. MUCH more expensive, actually. I’m sure that contractors would be held to a higher standard than Forest Service personnel are. Having been one of those ‘outsources’, doing fieldwork for National Forests, my old employer (actually Forest Service) charged $66 per hour for my services. Of course, I only got my GS-7 wages.

        • Actually, the “outsourcing” to the State of Oregon means that the state uses state employees paid for with state funds to assist the Forest Service. The Forest Service does not pay the state to do the work.

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