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The Department of the Interior to Pilot Restructuring Efforts With Alaska Office

The Department of the Interior is planning to re-adjust its regional boundaries and revamp its organization system in 2018, starting with a pilot management office in Alaska, E&E News reports.

A document from the department, published by E&E News, gave insight into the reasoning behind the formation of 13 new common regions, expected to take effect the second half of fiscal year 2018. The new boundaries will be "based on natural features like ecosystems and watersheds" and are believed to make the department "more efficient." The document says the changes to the boundaries will provide better management on a local ecosystem basis.

Director of the Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs Todd Wynn sent the document, a compilation of 39 "frequently asked questions," on January 19th to state and local stakeholders, according to E&E News.

Changes in the organization and addition of regional boundaries could lead to greater resolution and more decisions at the regional level, as well as relieve pressure on the department's budget, says the document. The department chose Alaska as the pilot site, a "large geographic area, most bureaus are active there, all existing regional offices are already in the same city, and there is only one state government with which to interact."

On Thursday, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke told department employees at a town hall in Washington, D.C., to not expect job or bureaus cuts as a result of the restructuring plan. The additional sites have not yet been chosen, but the decided sites will not lead to the closing of any "national parks, national wildlife refuges, national fish hatcheries, or BIA agency offices," or "types of local offices that are tied to specific natural or cultural resources or Indian tribes," according to the document.

"If you look at the way we're presently organized, all the bureaus under Interior have different regions ... and are not aligned geographically," Zinke told the Washington Post in January when he announced the initial restructuring concept.