Interior: “biggest reorganization in its history”

January 10 Washington Post story: “Interior plans to move thousands of workers in the biggest reorganization in its history.” In contrast to the OneUSDA initiative, this move would be consequential. The plan may require approval from Congress.

“The proposal would divide the United States into 13 regions and centralize authority for different parts of Interior within those boundaries. The regions would be defined by watersheds and geographic basins, rather than individual states and the current boundaries that now guide Interior’s operations. This new structure would be accompanied by a dramatic shift in location of the headquarters of major bureaus within Interior, such as the Bureau of Land Management and the Bureau of Reclamation.”

“If you look at the way we’re presently organized, all the bureaus under Interior have different regions . . . and are not aligned geographically,” Zinke said. For example, a single stream with trout and salmon can fall under the view of five separate agencies, one for each fish, another for a dam downstream and yet another to manage the water, and each generate reports that often conflict.”

4 Comments

  1. Most of the comments on the Post’s site are, er, entertaining. This one, however is interesting:

    “Frankly organizing the management of federal lands in the West along watershed and geographic, rather than political, boundaries makes sense. It was first recommended by the second director of the U.S. Geological Survey, John Wesley Powell, in the 1880s.”

  2. The article says Zinke’s proposal would “shift tens of thousands of workers to new locations.” Likely that also would result in shifting tens of thousands of families. Most of that moving will also be done on the taxpayers dime.

    Zinke has said that 30% of his employees are “not loyal to the flag.” One has to wonder if those 30% “dis-loyal” employees will make up 100% of the moves.

    A few other snips from the article:

    “This proposal is concerning because it appears to eliminate the Navajo Regional Office of the Bureau of Indian Affairs,” said Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.). “A change of this magnitude should only come after extensive, meaningful government-to-government consultation with the affected tribes. On its face, this looks more like a dismantling than a reorganization.”

    Jennifer Talhelm, a spokeswoman for Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), also raised questions about aspects of the plan.

    “As this process moves along, Senator Udall will listen to his constituents and pose a long list of questions — including why Secretary Zinke proposes to split New Mexico into two regions, and what impacts this proposal will have on tribes, on the department’s partners and stakeholders, and on the agency’s workforce in the state,” she said in an email.

  3. The other part to the story was the previous day’s WAPO article on the Secretary’s increased scrutiny of cooperative agreements from DOI, requiring anything more than $50K going to a university or NGO to require political approval and match one of his 10 priority items, energy development (OK good, but needs caution), increasing veterans in workforce (very good), helping communities surrounded by public land, etc. Many NPS, FWS, GS, BLM, etc. cooperative partnerships won’t hit those marks yet are still necessary or needed. Functionally, it will change the way business is done. Research items, for example, will now be done in-house by DOI science centers and not contracted out to the Montana’s or Colorado States. But because there is limited capacity, much work, especially monitoring, will simply cease – I guess money saved, but at what cost down the road? And per the moves, clearly the hope is that that 30-40% of DOI able to retire will, so……

  4. They’ve been talking about this for some time. check out this story:
    http://gazette.com/western-colorado-eyes-potential-blm-move/article/1617841

    I think that there are some good ideas here. But one thing about reviewing things (like do folks remember when all roadless projects got reviewed by politicals?) is that it gets old fast and people tend to figure out (on the politicals’ end) the real problem children and change their review procedures.

    I have also seen BLM cooperative funding (used suboptimally) or wasted on downscaling climate models, or studying the impacts of climate change on x or y plant when it could have been used to solve real world problems of today that are biting people’s butts like the hydrology of the mines leaking into Colorado rivers. There’s a real difference between studying things because they might be interesting and solving the problems of today. Here’s another one: how to safely capture methane from coal mines and use it. The only way to tell the difference is to look at the complete proposal and have on-the- ground folks give it a kind of reality check peer review..

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