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Zinke tweaks Interior reorganization maps after governors’ criticisms

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Zinke tweaks Interior reorganization maps after governors’ criticisms

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has tweaked his maps proposing a reorganized regional structure for his department following criticisms from western-state governors.

The new maps Zinke sent to governors and lawmakers Friday still have 13 regions for the Interior Department’s land-management agencies, based heavily on watersheds like the Missouri and Colorado rivers’. But the regions’ lines now closely follow state boundaries, and fewer states are split into multiple regions under the latest proposal.

“At present we are mismanaging and squandering our assets through a layered bureaucracy that reflects a very old department that really has not reorganized since the turn of the last century,” Zinke told The Associated Press.

“We will be moving assets to the front lines and moving authority to make decisions — and, I would argue, better decisions — to the front lines.”

Zinke has been working to reorganize the department since he became secretary last year.

His chief priority is to draw regions that make ecological sense and to align regional offices for agencies like the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management. Currently, the seven agencies at issue have than 50 regions.

But after Zinke put out an initial draft of a map, the bipartisan Western Governors Association complained that it had not been consulted and sent a public letter to Zinke outlining its objections and concerns.

“Secretary Zinke is still moving forward with a robust and historic reorganization of the Department to streamline services and put assets on the front lines,” Interior spokeswoman Heather Swift said Friday.

“The new maps show a hybrid approach using state lines, watersheds and about 12 other natural features to determine best regional boundaries. These maps represent the feedback the department solicited from veteran officials at Interior, Congress and states, and they are the latest draft for discussion.”

Zinke has also said he wants to reduce the staffing and resources at regional offices and push resources to the local level, including parks and refuges.

Congress would likely have to approve at least some of the changes he is seeking.

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