Department of Interior (DOI) Secretary Ryan Zinke reportedly unveiled plans to reorganize the department into 12 “unified regions” along watershed boundaries, rather than political borders.
Zinke sent a memo to all of DOI’s 70,000 employees outlining the proposal on Wednesday, according to a report by E&E News. Zinke initially discussed the plans in a five-minute video with employees last January, and in a subsequent interview with the Washington Post.
“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, according to E&E News.
He added that the reorganization “also will reduce bureaucratic redundancy, will improve communication between our experts in the field and leaders in Washington, DC, and will allow us to share our knowledge and resources more effectively.”
Zinke reportedly went on to say that over the next few months, “many of our senior executives will be working in each unified region and focusing on and designing core elements of its operations, depending on the actual circumstances on the ground…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.”
A major reorganization of DOI would require Congressional approval.
According to the report, the plan includes establishing a California-Great Basin Region, a Lower Colorado Basin Region and an Upper Colorado Basin Region, among others. Alaska would be its own region separate from the Lower 48.
In January, Zinke said he was inspired to reorganize the department along watershed lines by John Wesley Powell, a geologist and American West explorer who served as the second director of DOI’s U.S. Geological Survey from 1881-1894.
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