Update on BLM Reorganization

Greenwire: “New Interior Department regional boundaries will be in place this year, and the agency’s massive reorganization will begin in Alaska, according to a document obtained by E&E News.”

The article cites a BLM FAQ. — “We expect the boundaries for the thirteen new common regions will take effect in the second half of FY 2018.”


  1. (1) Getting away from States is not a good idea, in my view. They have political coherence and leverage.
    (2) My ideal would be all federal agencies organized by state. So much confusion can be caused by different agencies picking different “ecosystems” or “landscapes” to organize around. IMHO land management decisions are made about people and ecosystems by people so they should be organized around effective civil institutions- which look like States right now.
    (3) My award for “most duplicative and disorganized” goes to federal research, but second place might be overlapping BLM and FS assessments for planning. Hopefully this has gotten less duplicative since I retired.
    (4) Wouldn’t it be great to have a USDA, INT, NSF and EPA joint taskforce on eliminating duplicative research, analysis, monitoring and processes? OK I guess that’s too wild. How about just USDA and Interior?

    • As per your (2): As you might guess, Sharon, I prefer the recommended boundaries. From the earlier post:

      “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. ”

  2. I like the idea of moving authority to the field. Here’s about States with different regions..

    “Isn’t it a problem if a single state is split into more than one common region?
    A. No, since there is ample evidence that this works fine in practice, based on decades of
    experience with the current regional boundaries of the Bureau of Reclamation and the Army
    Corps of Engineers.”

    My experience with two FS regions in one state is that the two regions would often handle things differently, which led to (unnecessary) hours spent discussing the differences with the State and the appearance that the Feds are even more wasteful and disorganized than they really are. But that could be unique to my experience.

  3. “Moving authority to the field” is what produces “hours spent discussing the differences” (and in the Forest Service business, also confusing the public it serves). I would like to see someone first take a thoughtful look at what policies are best if centralized versus those where the field should have discretion. That might allow them to see whether boundaries would work better as ecosystem differences or social/political ones.

    Also, If the budget is actually important, there should be a bias toward centralization to reduce redundancy. It would be nice to quantify how much it costs to let every forest reinvent the planning wheel for example.

  4. Well, I’m not sure there should be a “bias toward centralization” but I totally agree with you about “a thoughtful look at what policies are best if centralized,” not just policies but processes, contracts and so on. It seems to me that in the FS there is a bias toward “doing your own thing” even if the result is incomprehensible to other employees, other state and federal agencies, and other externals.

    Perhaps another “elephant in the room”- the Cult of Decentralization…
    And while you and I disagree about the utility of forest plans and what should be in them, I completely agree with you on “reinventing the planning wheel.”

  5. Instead of a state-centric focus, why not reorganize the Forest Service into the very same 13 regions, and maybe move it into the Interior Department. Then move much of what we call “assessment,” and “planning,” to broader-scale with States and even other countries (particularly Canada and Mexico) as collaborators. Oh, and rewrite the RPA/NFMA as well to better align ecology and ecosystem management with administrative realities.

    Long ago, when working with the Boise NF on forest planning in a big deal collaboration, I realized that it stretched everyone’s resources too thin to do what we were attempting at the forest level. Besides most issues/concerns were over things that might be dealt with at broader scale. It made no sense to be talking about what were talking about in Boise, but not in Challis, in Salmon, in Pocatello, in Twin Falls, in St. Anthony, in McCall, let alone in all other parts of Idaho that are in Region 1. Besides, what sense does it make to pretend that ecosystem issues shake out along state boundaries anyway?

    • Dave, I agree with you.. our experiments in dual delegation on the San Juan and San Luis Valley Public Lands Centers showed me, the employees and the externals that better joint efforts between BLM and the FS have many public benefits. I also like the idea of rewriting or deleting RPA and harmonizing BLM and FS planning approaches.
      My liking of organizing by states is, as I said before, States do many of the same things more effectively than the Feds, and better coordination is always good. Our Region was accused of being “Colorado-centric” and I think that can be a real issue for multi-state jurisdictions (the smaller, more rural states get/feel left out). States have their own history, politics, culture etc, that influence land uses and how decisions are made. Regions have their own culture, history and so on. It seems to me that trying to align these is better than ignoring them.

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