When President Biden announced U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland (NM) as his nominee for Secretary of the Interior, we were thrilled.
During her time on the House Natural Resources Committee and as chair of the National Parks, Forest and Public Lands Subcommittee, Congresswoman Haaland demonstrated a deep commitment to America’s public lands. From her support of the Land and Water Conservation Fund to her bill to protect Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments to her consistent votes in favor of the environment, Rep. Haaland has shown a deep conviction for protecting the lands that make America, America the Beautiful.
On Tuesday, February 23, 2021, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources will hold a hearing to consider her nomination. We wrote a letter to Senate leaders urging them to confirm Rep. Haaland as the next Secretary of the Interior. The full text of the letter is below:
Dear Majority Leader Schumer, Minority Leader McConnell, Chairman Manchin and Ranking Member Barrasso:
Environment America is a policy and action group with one mission: to build a greener, healthier world. Along with our many state organizations, we are writing to express our strong support for confirming Rep. Deb Haaland of New Mexico to be the 54th Secretary for the Department of the Interior (DOI). As vice chair of the House Natural Resources Committee and chair of the National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Subcommittee, she established herself as exactly the kind of candidate we want as Interior Secretary -- an environmental champ with a vision to protect more nature in the United States.
In the 117th Congress, Rep. Haaland advanced the kind of forward-thinking environmental legislation that we need for the 21st century. She proposed H.Res.835, a vital resolution to conserve 30 percent of U.S. land and water by 2030. President Biden not only adopted the basis of this bill as a tenet of his campaign but also later advanced it via a popular executive order. Additionally, she sponsored H.R. 1050, the ANTIQUITIES Act, which clarifies that a president cannot reduce or diminish a monument, rather, only Congress can do this. This important distinction prevents the yo-yo effect of one administration protecting public land only to have another strip protections for the same area.
As the head of the Interior Department, Rep. Haaland’s role running the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and the National Park Service (NPS), means she would oversee a portfolio of 415 million acres and can play a key role in getting us to 30x30. This can be done by helping set up national monuments and national wildlife refuges. She can shift the focus on public lands from resource extraction to conservation.
When looking through the lens of biodiversity, it’s clear that a steady conservationist is needed right now at the helm of DOI. A 2019 United Nations report found that: “1 million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction, many within decades.” Here in the U.S., we lose two football fields of nature to development every minute. We’re carving up our wild spaces and doing permanent damage in the process. One-third of mammals in the U.S. are at risk of extinction, and there are 3 billion fewer birds in North American skies today than in 1970. Scientists project that up to 30 percent of America’s wildlife species are at risk of extinction within decades. And the challenges our wild species face are made worse by climate change.
We need an Interior Secretary who will work to fully protect our public lands and make the conservation of wildlife a top priority for the agency. To safeguard biodiversity, avert climate catastrophe, and provide Americans with the open spaces that make our lives richer, we urge you to confirm Rep. Haaland as the next Secretary of the Interior.
Senior Director, Conservation America Campaign