The department, which declined to comment for this story, has recognized it is facing a crisis. It is being asked to do more than ever before, but has fewer people with which to do it. In a recent workforce planning document, Interior said the infrastructure law and the GOAO will force it to “address current skills and pay gaps experienced by the bureaus.” It must attract the required technical talent pool, improve its data collection around hiring and reduce the time it takes to get someone on board, the department said.
In the meantime, according to Chandra Rosenthal, who has spent time at the departments of Energy and Justice and now leads the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility’s Rocky Mountain Office, Interior is taking shortcuts. At the Bureau of Land Management, for example, employees are increasingly using a “loophole” to avoid conducting thorough analysis before providing grazing permits. The waiver process robs the public of an opportunity to weigh in before a permit is awarded, Rosenthal said.
“They are cutting corners where they can, legally,” she explained.