Washington, DC — In the name of better customer service, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management is announcing a statewide reorganization, including moving twenty staff positions from a bustling Boise office to a remote outpost, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Estimated to cost approximately $1 million, the move is part of a proposed statewide reorganization that reverses cost-saving consolidations undertaken in the 1990s.
“BLM is playing a million dollar game of musical chairs while neglecting gaping wildlife, range and land management needs,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “This move is political payback to a very few but very connected Owyhee ranchers who want revenge against BLM range staff but since the BLM staff cannot be fired for doing their jobs, the next best thing is to induce them to resign or retire to avoid being moved to Idaho’s version of Siberia.”
In a letter to Rebecca Watson, the Assistant Secretary of Interior, PEER is asking that the agency reconsider the reorganization and examine the manner and motives of BLM Idaho State Director K. Lynn Bennett in ordering the personnel shifts. PEER contends that —
· Contrary to better serving customers, staff would be moved away from land users, cooperating agencies and the public customer base. In fact, only four grazing permittees live in Marsing where approximately twenty staff would be relocated;
· The cost of renting, furnishing and staffing a new office in Marsing would add an estimated $1 million annually. This money will be drawn from other under-funded BLM Idaho programs; and
· Hostility from Owyhee County officials has caused BLM staff to request a safety review to address staff concerns about assaults and lack of local law enforcement cooperation.
Despite claims of an extensive “research” effort for what Bennett has termed a state-wide “organizational refinement” involving a reported “96 interviews around the state,” major stakeholder groups that would be affected by the move, such as tribes, wild horse advocates and conservation groups were not contacted or consulted about the move. PEER maintains that the move to Marsing was already set in concrete without any evaluation of the field office’s customer base, without establishing the cost of a new office and without thinking through the effects on employees and the future of BLM Idaho.
“The only result we can count on from this reorganization is that BLM Idaho will have more managers and fewer staff in the field,” added Ruch. “Some people strive for achievement while others merely reorganize.”
See the BLM Reorganization Announcement