Friday, June 23, 2017

NM interior officials undergoing shuffle

NM interior officials undergoing shuffle By Michael Coleman / Journal Washington Bureau Thursday, June 22nd, 2017 at 12:05am Copyright © 2017 Albuquerque Journal WASHINGTON – The director of the Bureau of Land Management in New Mexico is among dozens of top U.S. Department of Interior officials asked by Secretary Ryan Zinke to accept new positions or resign, a move that drew criticism Wednesday from New Mexico’s senators in Washington. Amy Lueders, director of New Mexico’s BLM office, has been reassigned to an as-yet-unannounced position in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Both agencies are part of the Interior Department. The Bureau of Land Management oversees millions of acres of federal land around the nation, including in New Mexico. “Amy has served as our BLM state director for the past two years, and she has been incredibly engaged and responsive,” Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., told Zinke at an Interior budget hearing on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. “Quite frankly, I don’t want New Mexico to lose her, and I’m very concerned about the impacts of other changes as well.” Lueders declined to comment through a spokeswoman Wednesday. It is unclear who will replace her at the BLM. Udall said Zinke’s shake-up of the Interior Department’s top ranks also includes the reassignment of Benjamin Tuggle, the Albuquerque-based Southwest Regional Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, and the newly installed director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Weldon “Bruce” Loudermilk, who is based in Washington. Udall said “the scale of these changes is virtually without precedent.” The New Mexico senator asked Zinke for a comprehensive list of employees affected by the management shuffle, but Zinke told reporters after the hearing he could not provide one until it’s clear who is going to “take the move or resign.” Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., told the Journal he worried the personnel changes don’t take into consideration the employees’ hard-earned expertise in complex policy areas. Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., said he backed Zinke’s decision to make personnel changes at the department. “It is within Secretary Zinke’s authority to ensure the Department of the Interior is operating as efficiently as possible,” Pearce told the Journal. “I will continue to voice New Mexico’s priorities to Secretary Zinke as staffing changes are made throughout the department.” Interior Department Press Secretary Heather Swift told the Journal on Wednesday the move should not come as a surprise and is in the best interests of the taxpayer. “The president signed an executive order to reorganize the federal government for the future and the secretary (Zinke) has been absolutely out front on that issue,” she said. “In fact, he mentioned a department-wide, front lines-focused reorganization on his first day address to all employees. Personnel moves are being conducted to better serve the taxpayer and the department’s operations through matching Senior Executive skill sets with mission and operational requirements.” The move to reassign the employees, who are part of the federal government’s Senior Executive Service – a category just under the top agency political appointees – is legal after the person has been in the job for six months. An official with the Senior Executives Association, which represents 6,000 of the government’s top leaders, told the Washington Post last week that Interior reassignments could involve as many as 50 people. -- • To remove your name

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