Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Interior lacks permanent leaders for key agencies controlling roughly 500 million acres of public land

The National Park Service does not have one. Neither does the Bureau of Land Management. Same goes for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. None of those three land management agencies, which together oversee more than 480 million acres of surface area nationwide, according to figures on their websites, have received a permanent director during the nearly 18 months since Donald Trump became president. Instead, those agencies are being run by temporary "acting" officials - people not formally nominated by Trump and who do not require confirmation by the Senate...Zinke is pursuing a plan to group the department's several agencies into new geographic regions to more readily fight wildfires and issue permits. He also is asking Congress to divert revenue from oil, natural gas and other energy projects on public lands to a new fund to pay for much-needed repairs in the national parks, which face a $11.6 billion maintenance backlog. But Trump has yet to fill seven of the department's 17 positions that require Senate confirmation. Trump also has yet to put forward nominees for such jobs as solicitor, inspector general, special trustee for American Indians and assistant secretary for fish, wildlife and parks. Only last week did the Senate install its 10th Interior official - Tara Sweeney as assistant secretary for Indian affairs. "Secretary Zinke has found creative ways to carry out all the work necessary with a lean staff," Interior Department spokeswoman Heather Swift said. But Zinke has called the lack of Senate-confirmed leadership a "frustration" in congressional testimony - one that he does not expect to go away anytime soon. "It is unlikely, as a secretary, that I will have a director of the Park Service, a director of BLM and a director of the Fish and Wildlife Service by two years in," Zinke told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee in May...MORE