President-elect Joe Biden tapped Deb Haaland to head up the U.S. Department of the Interior, which oversees our nation's public lands, wildlife conservation, and key aspects of energy development. Currently a House representative from New Mexico, Haaland has led the national parks, forests, and public lands subcommittee on the House Natural Resources Committee. She would be the first Native American to lead the department.
If confirmed, Haaland will oversee an agency the Trump administration systematically worked to dismantle. Secretaries Ryan Zinke and David Bernhardt did everything in their power to make the department as industry friendly as possible — shrinking national monuments, gutting endangered species protections, throwing open the doors to fossil fuel extraction, and more.
Though Haaland will face significant challenges, she can begin to reverse harmful policies and ensure our public lands are conserved and used in ways that benefit us all.
Here are five priorities Haaland and the department should act on right away:
These recommendations barely scratch the surface, but they're an important place to start. Additional priorities include implementing a new federal land conservation law and executing the Land and Water Conservation Fund at the federal level. Haaland should also revoke the department’s recent decision to give states unprecedented veto power over federal recreational land acquisitions.
Trump’s Interior Department violated its obligations as a trustee of the nation’s public lands and resources. Haaland can begin to repair the damage and restore the federal government’s commitment to mitigate and adapt to climate change. She can also get started on preserving our public lands and resources to ensure their continued enjoyment. Doing so will restore policies that are consistent with the rule of law and that benefit the American people, the communities in which they live, and our precious natural heritage.
Editor’s note: This post is part of the Center for Progressive Reform’s Policy for a Just America initiative. Learn more on CPR's website.
Top image by the Office of Rep. Deb Haaland.