Frank Bernheisel: The View From Here
Frank Bernheisel
Frank Bernheisel
Posted 7.19.19
Just Outside Washington



(The following was sent to our Congressman and Senators from the state of Virginia.)

Dear Senator Warner,

I have read several articles about the Administration proposing to reorganize the Interior Department, including the one in yesterday's Washington Post, on moving the management of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) out of Washington to western states. As a dedicated user of our public lands, National Parks, Wildlife Refuges, National Monuments and including undesignated lands under BLM for hiking, camping, education, and just enjoyment, I object. I object for several reasons, including:

  • 1. The lands BLM manages belong to all the American people, not just to those who live nearby;

  • 2. BLM is charged with managing the lands for multiple uses, moving management near specific users will bias decision making toward resource extraction;

  • 3. The Interior Department has history of selling publicly-owned resources at below market prices, whether oil leases, mining, grazing rights, timber harvesting, etc;

  • 4. These low returns limit the funds available to manage the lands and compensate states and counties for lack of property taxes;

  • 5. According to the GAO, extractive programs are at risk of being the "federal programs and operations that are especially vulnerable to waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement, or that need transformational change." and

  • 6. Oversight by the Inspector General and Congress will be more difficult and expensive.

    The management of the lands which belong to the American people require input from the American people, and the Interior Department has suspended scientific and citizen advisory panels. So, it appears that these reorganizations are taking place without broad input. Further, my understanding is that reorganizations of the Interior Department and its divisions require notification of and approval by Congress.

    While the Administration may be correct that the management of BLM and the Interior Department need to be reorganized, their approach is poor and focused appears to be promoting extractive uses. I think that the laws governing public lands, and the BLM in particular, need to be reviewed by Congress, public input sought, modifications developed, and legislation passed to implement the modernization. Reorganization based upon the requirements of this legislation should then be proposed, debated, approved by Congress and implemented.

    On a personal note, though I never worked as a civilian for the federal government, I have friends that do or have. My discussions with them indicate that this sort of 'reorganization' is very disruptive and demoralizing. Because of mismanagement like Interior and BLM, several skilled and capable professionals, that I know, have left the federal government for the private sector or early retirement.

    Please take action to stop this ill-conceived reorganization of BLM.