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19 Western governors protest Zinke’s plan to change Interior boundaries

19 Western governors protest Zinke’s plan to change Interior boundaries
© Greg Nash

A group of 19 governors of Western states are protesting Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeHUD official quits amid Interior Department watchdog controversy Overnight Energy: Outdoor retailer Patagonia makes first Senate endorsements | EPA withdraws Obama uranium milling rule | NASA chief sees 'no reason' to dismiss UN climate report Interior Department sued over withholding details on trophy permits, endangered species MORE's plan to overhaul the department, saying he has not sought their recommendations.

The bipartisan Western Governors Association sent a letter to Zinke on Feb. 1 asking for a delay on the plan, according to The Associated Press on Thursday.

Zinke wants to reorganize the department's regional management system, shifting authority away from state boundaries toward new ecologically-determined regions across the country. 

Zinke's plan would divide the U.S. into 13 geographic regions, retooling the department to focus on unique environmental factors in place of the current state-based system. 

In the letter, the governors said that the association asked Zinke in recent months to consult them if he planned to reshuffle the regional management structure. The governors said that Zinke had not consulted them on the proposed changes. 

“Western governors expect to be treated as the chief executives of a sovereign level of government, not as stakeholders,” the association's executive director Jim Ogsbury told the AP.

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"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 explained in a video message to the department in January. 

In the letter, the state leaders asked how the plan, which would divide management of some states in up to three regions, would affect how the department interacts with state authorities. 

The governors that signed the letter represent South Dakota, Hawaii, Alaska, Colorado, California, Nevada, Washington, Oregon, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Wyoming, Idaho, Nebraska, and North Dakota.

The governors “are welcome to share their ideas and opinions with the secretary or their staff are also encouraged to reach out to the secretary’s staff," Interior Department spokeswoman Heather Swift told the AP.

The association has yet to receive a response from the secretary, a spokesman for the association told the AP.