Department of the Interior officials say they are reorganizing and consolidating the agency’s 49 regions to help them better manage the nation’s natural resources.
In a letter to employees on Wednesday, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said DOI has established 12 unified regions for all the agency’s bureaus, except those that fall under the assistant secretary of Indian affairs.
“These unified regions, rooted in the best science focused on watersheds and ecosystems, will simplify how the department is organized,” he said.
The new unified regions will allow important decisions to be made nearer to where stakeholders and intergovernmental partners live and work, he said. They will make joint problem-solving and improved coordination between the department’s bureaus and other federal, state and local agencies easier, he said.
“Our new organization also will reduce bureaucratic redundancy, will improve communication between our experts in the field and leaders in Washington, D.C., and will allow us to share our knowledge and resources more effectively among the department’s field staff and local stakeholders,” he said.
The department has 70,000 employees and includes 10 agencies, including the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, U.S. Geological Survey and Bureau of Indian Affairs. The department manages 530 million acres of federal land.
In addition, the unified regions will clarify jurisdictional and organizational barriers to citizen services and allow the department to devote a greater percentage of its budget to the field, according to the department.
DOI now has eight bureaus and 49 regions, each operating within unique regional boundaries. The disparate geographic focus inhibits the sharing of resources and discourages a shared frame of geographic reference, resulting in operational and administrative inefficiencies, according to the department.
The reorganization is the result of an executive order by President Donald Trump in March 2017 directing the secretary of Interior to improve the efficiency, effectiveness and accountability of the department by reorganizing certain functions and bureaus.
The complexity of administering DOI programs has expanded dramatically over time as Congress broadened the department’s statutory duties. As its mission and bureaus grew, so have competing interests and priorities between bureaus and offices, DOI stated.
The 12 new unified regions will provide better management on an ecosystem basis to include critical components such as wildlife corridors, watersheds and trail systems.
More focus will be given to local decision-making, with less emphasis on Washington, D.C. The reorganization will improve collaboration and coordination across DOI bureaus and with other agencies to facilitate better coordination of collaborative conservation, recreation and permitting, according to DOI.
No office or personnel relocations will take place during initial implementation of the reorganization. The department does not anticipate mission, budget or personnel impacts as the 12 unified regions begin to operate.