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 ZinkeOvernight Energy: EPA moves to raise ethanol levels in gasoline | Dems look to counter White House climate council | Zinke cleared of allegations tied to special election Zinke cleared of violating federal rules tied to Pennsylvania special election Overnight Energy: Trump unveils 2020 budget | Plan slashes funds for EPA, Interior and Energy | Interior request highlights border security 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 BishopOvernight Energy: McConnell tees up vote on Green New Deal | Centrist Dems pitch alternative to plan | House Republican likens Green New Deal to genocide | Coca-Cola reveals it uses 3M tons of plastic every year House GOP lawmaker says Green New Deal is like genocide Overnight Energy: Solar installations dropped in 2018 | UN report says rising Arctic temperatures 'locked in' | Fiat Chrysler to recall 850K vehicles 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.