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Alaska to pilot first Interior Department restructuring: report

Alaska to pilot first Interior Department restructuring: report
© Greg Nash

The Department of Interior (DOI) appears to be moving full speed ahead with an ambitious reorganization plan and will pilot the first regional office concept in Alaska.

In a letter first obtained by E&E News Friday, the director of Interior's Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs, Todd Wynn, expanded on the department's proposed restructuring, which would include "revamped boundaries" for 13 proposed regional hubs.

The seven-page document containing a list of 39 "frequently asked questions" was sent to state and local stakeholders Jan. 19 and detailed plans to initiate the change in Alaska because the state has a "large geographic area, most bureaus are active there, all existing regional offices are already in the same city, and there is only one state government with which to interact."

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The document said the new plan to change the long-standing boundaries would "provide better management on an ecosystem basis to include critical components such as wildlife corridors, watersheds, and trail systems."

It also said the new regional hubs will "take effect" in the second half of fiscal 2018, from April 1 to Sept. 30.

The city locations within the regions have not yet been determined. The letter promised that the new structure would add more managers in the long term and that the revamping was not expected to negatively affect or close national parks, wildlife refuges, fish hatcheries or Bureau of Indian Affairs offices, specifically.

DOI Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeOvernight Energy: Political appointee taking over as Interior IG | Change comes amid Zinke probe | White Houses shelves coal, nuke bailout plan | Top Dem warns coal export proposal hurts military Overnight Energy: Political employee to replace Interior inspector general amidst investigations| White House pauses plan to bail out coal and nuclear| Top Armed Services Dem warns Trump coal plan on military bases could hurt national security Top House Armed Services Dem says Trump coal export plan could hurt military MORE first announced his plans to change the department's structure at the beginning of his tenure.

Speaking on Thursday to Interior employees at a town hall in Washington, D.C., Zinke promised that no jobs were expected to be lost in the changes.

"At the end of day, I don’t think we're going to lose anyone in terms of numbers. I think numbers will be pushed more to the front line," Zinke said.

Zinke said he would have to work with members of Congress to make any significant changes.

A number of Republicans on Capitol Hill have been supportive of Zinke's restructuring plan, specifically favoring moving more Interior representation to western states.

In a letter Wednesday, Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee Rob BishopRobert (Rob) William BishopDaylight Saving Time costs more than it's worth Congress can’t give ranchers a pass when they abuse national park access Senate panel moves to renew expired park conservation fund MORE (R-Utah), along with the chairmen of the panel's subcommittees, praised Zinke's plans as "bold and innovative" and called them "a first step in transforming the department for the 21st Century."