Energy & Environment

Zinke says Interior reorganization won’t relocate employees — yet

The Interior Department’s final reorganization plan would separate agency offices into 12 regions across the U.S., according to an internal email obtained by The Hill Wednesday.

The plan, announced by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in a staff-wide email, aims to reorganize management of the department through ecosystem and watershed boundaries rather than state lines in what will be called Unified Regions.

“To prepare the Department for the next 100 years, I am pleased to announce the next steps we have taken to modernize the way we do business in order to continue to responsibly manage America’s natural resources,” Zinke wrote.

{mosads}While critics have argued that the reorganization would be costly, time consuming and could result in lay-offs and inconveniences for staffers, Zinke promised in his email that no relocations will occur at least during the “initial implementation phase.”

“I want to reassure you that there will not be any office or personnel relocations during the initial implementation of our new Unified Regions, and your reporting structure is unchanged during the initial implementation phase,” Zinke told staff.

An Interior spokesperson said the steps outlined in the memo will occur over the next few months and that the Secretary and deputy Secretary have been working closely with “key House Democrats” to get their support. 

Zinke sent the reprogramming letter to Congress and they did not object, according to the Interior spokesperson.

According to the Interior memo, the new regional boundaries are based on the “best science” and have the goal of reconnecting Interior management to the proper areas.

“Our new Unified Regions will allow important decisions to be made nearer to where our stakeholders and intergovernmental partners live and work, and will make joint problem-solving and improved coordination between our Bureaus and other Federal, State, and local agencies easier,” Zinke wrote.

The map of the new regions can be found online. Names include the “California Great Basin” which expands into Nevada, and the “The Upper Colorado Basin,” which encompasses Utah, New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming.

Zinke has long proposed reorganization plans for the department, arguing that too many bureaucrats lead from Washington rather than the ares they are regulating. He first announced the overhaul in January.

“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 for the department’s 70,000 workers, released publicly.

“This concept will allow Interior and our participating agencies to address concerns using a system-level approach to better manage important resources, such as watersheds, trail systems, infrastructure requirements, recreational access and wildlife corridors,” he said.

Tags Interior reorganization Land management regions Ryan Zinke

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