U.S. Park Police horses. Photo: U.S. Department of the Interior

Secretary Zinke outlines nationwide reorganization of Interior Department

Secretary Ryan Zinke is seeking "bipartisan" support for a major reorganization at the Department of the Interior that will impact Indian Country, The Washington Post reports.

According to a map dated January 3, Zinke wants to place Interior's bureaus and offices into 13 new geographic regions that a dramatically different from existing regions. If the boundaries are adopted as seen in the map, some Bureau of Indian Affairs regions would be broken up.

For example, the BIA's Navajo region would no longer be considered its own separate office. Instead, it would be lumped into a new "Region 7" that includes tribes in parts of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and even Wyoming.

Tribes in the BIA's Southwest region, which currently includes all of Colorado and New Mexico, would be split between "Region 7" and "Region 6." The map shows that two Pueblo reservations in New Mexico would somehow end up in Region 6 even though they are geographically, culturally and socially close to their Pueblo neighbors in the northern part of the state.

Tribes in Oklahoma, which are currently served by the BIA's Eastern Oklahoma and Southern Plains regions, would be grouped into the same "Region 6," a large region that also includes Texas. And the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains regions would be seemingly combined in a huge "Region 5."

“This proposal is concerning because it appears to eliminate the Navajo Regional Office of the Bureau of Indian Affairs,” Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-New Mexico) told The Post. “A change of this magnitude should only come after extensive, meaningful government-to-government consultation with the affected tribes. On its face, this looks more like a dismantling than a reorganization.”

Secretary Zinke told The Post that he will be meeting with key lawmakers to seek their support for the reorganization. The paper did not say whether he talked about tribal consultation.

“There will be hearings on the Hill, briefings of committees,” Zinke told the paper. “We want the reorganization to be bipartisan. There will be a lot of my time spent on the Hill, talking to ranking members and chairmen. In the Senate, the appropriations committee was briefed last year on what the beginning of the reorganization will look like.”

Read More on the Story:
Interior plans to move thousands of workers in the biggest reorganization in its history (The Washington Post January 10, 2018)

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