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Zinke Shifts Plans To Reorganize Interior After Western Leaders' Pushback

Rick Bowmer
AP Images
In this Feb. 9, 2018, file photo, U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke speaks to reporters at a conservation announcement at the Western Conservation and Hunting Expo in Salt Lake City.

In January, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced he wanted to create 13 distinct regions of the country, with the intention of decentralizing the D.C.-based agency.

The map draws boundaries based on watersheds and ecosystems, inspired in part by an outline created by a 19th century geographer named John Wesley Powell.

Although Zinke framed the big organizational change as a positive thing for folks who work and play on public land, not everyone saw it this way.

“I guess you could say it was sprung on people, and sort of a headscratcher about, ‘why this now?’” says John Freemuth with the Andrus Center for Public Policy at Boise State.

In early February, the Western Governors Association asked Zinke to reconsider his idea, and the Trump Administration official relented. The new map more closely follows current state boundaries.

Freemuth says if the final proposal allows BLM employees in states like Idaho to have a bigger say about what happens in D.C., that could be a good thing.

“If Secretary Zinke can find a way to back his local decision-makers and not reverse them, then that’s not a bad thing.”

Currently, Idaho and other western states have BLM state offices that deal directly with folks on the ground. Any reorganization of the Department would need to get Congressional approval.

Find reporter Frankie Barnhill on Twitter @FABarnhill

Copyright 2018 Boise State Public Radio


Frankie Barnhill was the Senior Producer of Idaho Matters, Boise State Public Radio's daily show and podcast.