Representative Deb Haaland, an enrolled member of the Pueblo of Laguna, has become the first Native American to serve as Secretary of the Interior after a U.S. Senate vote Monday.
Haaland, a Democrat from New Mexico, was a freshman in the House of Representatives during the 116th Congress and served as a member of the Committee on Natural Resources. She gained a reputation for promoting bipartisan conservation legislation, including the Great American Outdoors Act, the America’s Conservation Enhancement Act and the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation Management and Recreation Act. In February, The Wildlife Society, alongside a coalition of hunting, angling and conservation groups, submitted a letter supporting her nomination and confirmation by the Senate.
Haaland’s historic nomination received considerable scrutiny during her confirmation hearing. Members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee raised concerns about Haaland’s stance on traditional energy development on public lands, especially in western states. Throughout the hearing, Haaland pledged to work with states and local communities to learn more information about various public lands issues and develop solutions to energy and job needs. Her commitment to collaboration gained her critical support from Chairman Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who voted to recommend Haaland to the Senate floor for confirmation in an 11-9 committee vote.
Despite concerns raised during the committee hearing, all Democrats and four Republicans voted to end debate on the Senate floor and move the nomination forward for a final vote. On Monday afternoon, Haaland’s nomination to the position was officially confirmed in a vote of 51-40, which included the support of all Democrats who were present and four Republicans.
The Department of the Interior includes the Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Geological Survey and National Park Service. As Secretary, Haaland will have major oversight and influence on the implementation of President Biden’s “30 by 30” initiative, federal climate change adaptation and energy development policies, and implementation of the Endangered Species Act and Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
With Haaland officially installed as Interior Secretary, the Senate can move forward with considering nominations for other Interior Department leadership positions, including the directors of its various agencies.
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