Biden administration fills key leadership positions

Five months into the Biden U.S. administration, leadership at the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture is falling into place.

Deb Haaland, an enrolled member of the Pueblo of Laguna, became the first Native American to serve as Secretary of the Interior after a U.S. Senate vote in April. Now, her second-in-command has been confirmed. Tommy Beaudreau was approved by the Senate as deputy Interior secretary on June 17, in an 88-9 vote.

Beaudreau worked at the Department of the Interior during both Obama administrations, serving in several roles, including the first director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and chief of staff to then-Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. After his time at Interior, he worked in the private sector as an attorney specializing in oil and gas development.

While Beaudreau received bipartisan supported from the Senate and a relatively quick confirmation, the administration’s nominee to lead the Bureau of Land Management has not.

Tracy Stone-Manning was nominated as BLM Director in April. She currently serves as senior adviser for conservation policy at the National Wildlife Federation. Her nomination has generated a fair amount of controversy on Capitol Hill.

Given her work at NWF and previous associations with more extreme environmental organizations such as Earth First, some lawmakers have questioned her commitment to the multiple uses that BLM lands support. However, many hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation groups have endorsed her nomination.

Questions have also arisen about a personal loan Stone-Manning received in 2008 from Montana developer, while she was working as an aide for Sen. Tester (D-Mont.). Tester has spoken out in support of his former aide.

During a hearing before the Senate Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, Secretary of the Interior Haaland indicated support for the prospective BLM Director but did not elaborate on it.

Tom Vilsack was confirmed in February as Secretary of Agriculture, a role he has also served in during both Obama administrations. While the deputy secretary has also been confirmed, most other leadership position at the Department of Agriculture remain vacant, with another vacancy coming at the end of the summer.

U.S. Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen has announced that she will retire in August, after 11 years with the U.S. Forest Service. While not a political appointment or Senate-confirmed position, the Chief of the Forest Service often changes with a new administration. Christiansen has served in the role since 2018.

The Secretary of Agriculture is expected to announce her replacement soon, although the administration has not yet nominated someone to serve as the undersecretary for natural resources and environment, which oversees the Forest Service. That position does require Senate confirmation.

Header Image: The administration is filling key position at the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture.
Credit: Dennis R. Green/BLM Alaska