Interior secretary wants new regions ready by July

By Laura Bies

The Interior Department is moving forward with a new system of 12 unified regions. ©USFWS

The reorganization of the Interior Department from eight separate bureaus with 49 different regions to a new system of 12 unified regions continues, with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke asking his staff to have the new regions operational by July 1.

In a recent email to all Interior employees, Susan Combs, a senior Interior advisor, provided more information about the reorganization, which has been moving forward in stages for over a year now.

The most recent development, since the finalization of the new regional map in late August, is the appointment of regional facilitators. Interior employees from each of the 12 regions were selected by their peers to lead the implementation of the new regions. Most of the regions have one facilitator, others have two or three. The regional facilitators met recently in Washington, D.C., with Combs and Zinke, and while Zinke noted that guidance and direction will come from the headquarters office, he tasked the regional directors with leading the reorganization at the field level.

The regional facilitators are currently putting together region-wide teams, made up of employees from all bureaus in a region, for each of Interior’s mission areas of recreation, collaborative conservation and permitting, as well as its support areas of human resources, information technology and procurement.

Combs’ email acknowledges that all 12 regions are unique, and that implementation may look different in different regions. She also relayed Zinke’s goal that the new regions be operational by July 1. By then, each region should have an Interior regional director — a senior Interior employee who will lead the region and work to coordinate the activities of the bureaus within each region. The selection of Interior regional directors will be handled by the headquarters office.

Thus far, the reorganization has moved forward with limited Congressional oversight, but that could change when the new Congressional session beginning in January. Both the House Natural Resources Committee and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee are home to high-ranking Democrats who have raised questions about the reorganization, senior Interior official relocations and other hot-buttons issues. The new Congress could see more efforts by those committees to investigate Zinke’s reorganization plans.

More information is available on the reorganization FAQ page. Interior employees or members of the public who have questions or wish to offer feedback can do so via an online feedback form or through an email to reorg@doi.gov.

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Laura BiesLaura Bies is a government relations contractor and freelance writer for The Wildlife Society. She has a B.S. in Environmental Science and a law degree from George Washington University. Laura has worked with The Wildlife Society since 2005. Read more of Laura's articles.


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