Skip to main content

Earthjustice is a nonprofit in the business of building a better future. We’re here because the earth needs a good lawyer.

What You Need to Know About Deb Haaland and the Department of the Interior

Today in a historic announcement, President-elect Biden nominated Representative Deb Haaland from New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District to serve as Secretary of Interior. If confirmed, Rep. Haaland would be the first Native American, and only the third woman, to serve in this role.

The Secretary of the Interior oversees a vast amount of the nation’s public lands, wildlife, and industrial development. This appointment is a critical opportunity to enact policies that combat the climate crisis, conserve our public lands in partnership with Indigenous tribes, and strengthen protections for endangered species.

What is Representative Deb Haaland’s track record on environmental protection?

  • In Congress, Rep. Haaland has been a strong advocate for environmental justice priorities, most recently leading the fight to require the Department of Interior to conduct a report on how its activities impact environmental justice communities.
  • Rep. Haaland leads the 30x30 effort in the House, a major conservation plan to protect 30% of land and ocean in the US by 2030.
  • Rep. Haaland introduced the ANTIQUITIES Act, a bill that would greatly expand National Monuments of great ecological and cultural value. 
  • Haaland has strongly opposed fossil fuel industry interests, taking the bold position to meaningfully limit all forms of oil and gas drilling on public lands. (Call on the Biden administration to act now on this issue.)

The Department of the Interior oversees most federal lands and natural resources in the public trust.

  • It is responsible for managing national parks, wildlife refuges, historic landmarks, and offshore territories of the outer continental shelf.
  • The Interior is charged with steering wide-ranging preservation efforts, like endangered species conservation.
  • Through the Bureau of Land Management, the Interior also decides how natural resources are extracted from the lands it manages–namely from the mining, fossil fuel, and timber industries.
  • The Interior sets the tone for the federal government’s relationships with Native American tribal governments, through negotiating land buy-backs, natural resource management of land trusts, and providing education and economic services.

The next Secretary should enact major policies that proactively mitigate climate change and the biodiversity crisis.

  • Undo the damage done by the Trump administration: reverse rollbacks that weakened the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.
  • Proactively move to stop the biggest contributor to climate change by placing a moratorium on onshore and offshore drilling of public lands.
  • Reinstitute the ban on drilling in the Arctic and parts of Atlantic. The Arctic is ground zero for rapid climate change, yet the Trump administration recently invited oil and gas companies to place bids on where they want to drill for oil. Scientists have warned that if we’re to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change, it is essential to keep Arctic fossil fuel reserves in the ground.
  • Designate national monuments that will place public lands under federal protection.

In recent years, Earthjustice has fought to hold the DOI accountable to its mission of protecting our shared lands and wildlife.

  • Our biggest court victory in defense of public lands and waters came from protecting the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans. We stopped the Trump administration from undoing a ban on oil and gas drilling in the vast majority of those waters. The victory not only restored permanent protections from drilling there, it prevents the imminent leasing of these sensitive areas to polluting fossil fuel corporations.
  • We are defending two national monuments in Utah, Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears, from the Trump administration’s decision to slash them by almost two million acres. The administration intended to open hundreds of thousands of these acres to drilling and mining. Those cases are pending in district court.
  • Earthjustice looks forward to working with a Department of the Interior that uses its powers to protect our planet and its people.