GOP chairmen ask Interior for more staff out West

GOP chairmen ask Interior for more staff out West
© Greg Nash

Chairmen of the House Natural Resources Committee and its subcommittees sent a joint letter Wednesday to Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeSenate panel approves Interior nominee over objections from Democrats Interior's border surge puts more officers in unfamiliar role Not 'if' but 'when' is the next Deepwater Horizon spill? MORE, praising his "bold and innovative" plans to reorganize the department, and urging him to relocate more staff on the ground in western regions.

In the letter, the six Republican chairmen, led by Rep. Rob BishopRobert (Rob) William BishopDozens of states consider move to permanent daylight saving time Statehood bill could make Puerto Rico a state before 2020 Here's why Congress, not the president, should lead on environmental protection MORE (Utah), called Zinke's proposed reorganization plans "a first step in transforming the department for the 21st Century."

The chairman told Zinke that he "must consider" relocating staff or bureau management to areas "on the ground" outside of Washington, D.C. 

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"Moving some of the decision making and managerial responsibilities to western areas will not only improve the department's quality of work, but also, bring more responsive and common sense interactions in its relationship with the communities it interacts with and impacts the most," the letter read.

Additionally, the letter supported one of Zinke's proposed ideas to divvy up the U.S. into 13 regions based on geographic basins and watersheds. The idea would be to then place various parts of the Interior Department within those boundaries.

Zinke first announced plans to overhaul the department's structure earlier this month. The yet-to-be-finalized plans would move tens of thousands of government employees to new locations across the country and reorganize the management of federal lands.

“We’re looking at reshaping our current bureau-based regional system of management and moving to a system based on ecosystems, watersheds and science, rather than the current state or regional boundaries,” Zinke said in a video message to the department’s 70,000 workers, released publicly Thursday.