Friday, April 07, 2017

Could the Forest Service be shared by the Departments of Agriculture AND Interior?

The new Secretary of the Interior has considered having his department SHARE the U.S. Forest Service (FS) with the Department of Agriculture, where the FS currently resides. There have been many discussions and some serious proposals about transferring the FS from the Department of Agriculture to other departments such as Interior, or creating a new Department of Natural Resources (or Conservation). And there has been idle chatter about siphoning off the 13,000 wildland firefighters (who usually have job titles like Forestry Technician) in the Agriculture and Interior Departments to form a new National Wildfire Service, or moving them all to the Department of Homeland Security. At the recent Incident Commander/Area Commander meeting in Reno, it was pointed out that 13 out of the last 16 Administrations had proposed some version of merging the FS with the DOI and the four primary land management agencies in the DOI, the Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the National Park Service. But the atmosphere this time is different — there are reports that the Trump Administration is receptive to a wide scale reorganization and an alignment with leadership that is very interested in land management issues. The word is that new Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke is well informed and engaged in fire and natural resource issues. Up until now none of the reorganization ideas have made it very far through the bureaucracy, but when then Montana Representative Zinke was nominated in December as President Elect Trump’s Secretary of the Interior, moving the FS was again in the conversation. As Rep. Zinke made the rounds talking with Senators before his confirmation hearing his interest in moving the FS into Interior worried some Democratic lawmakers...more

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