Interior Department veterans question need for overhaul

DENVER (AP) — U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s plan to put more of his department’s decision-makers in the field has a fundamental flaw in the eyes of some who spent their careers making those decisions.

Eleven former Interior Department officials with decades of experience in both Washington and in local offices told The Associated Press that most of the key officials are already in the field.

Some said the problem is that an increasing number of decisions that should be made locally are made in Washington because of political pressure, under both Democratic and Republican administrations.

The Interior Department manages 780,000 square miles (2 million square kilometers) of public lands, mostly in the West. More than 91 percent of the department’s workforce of about 70,000 is already based outside the Washington area.