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Photo: Tony Llama / Flickr

On Wednesday, The Center for Biological Diversity filed a Freedom of Information Act request for public records that address the sweeping reassignment of dozens of high-level staff within the Department of the Interior by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

According to The Washington Post, three dozen or more Interior Department leaders received letters on Thursday providing 15 days’ notice of job changes. Those targeted for job changes include Joel Clement, Interior’s top climate official; five senior staff at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (including those responsible for saving endangered species); and other senior staff within the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the National Park Service.

The scope of the job reassignments is unprecedented among past administrations, and timing of the notices suggests that the job changes will happen at the earliest date Zinke is allowed to enact such changes under the law.

“Ryan Zinke is already among history’s most hostile Interior secretaries when it comes to public lands, endangered species, national parks and American Indian tribes,” said Taylor McKinnon with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Now, in typical Trump administration fashion, he’s sowing chaos in the ranks of the agency’s leadership. Massively reshuffling agency leadership opens the door to all sorts of trouble, including sweetheart deals for polluters.”

The Senior Executive Service, or SES, was created by the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 to “ensure that the executive management of the Government of the United States is responsive to the needs, policies, and goals of the Nation and otherwise is of the highest quality.”

SES staff are executive-level federal employees who occupy positions immediately beneath presidential appointments. According to the nonprofit Senior Executive Association, they provide “institutional stability and continuity across administrations, and serve as a vital link between political appointees, frontline managers, and the federal workforce of approximately two million employees.”

“It’s important for the Center and for the public to see these records to shed light on these massive staffing changes,” said McKinnon, “and it’s particularly important considering the potential impacts these changes may have on the way the Interior agencies are able to protect our collective interests regarding our country’s lands, waters and wildlife.”

Download today’s request here.

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