Biden picks U.S. Representative Deb Haaland to be Interior Secretary
President-Elect Joe Biden will nominate Representative Deb Haaland to serve as his Interior Secretary, according to a person familiar with the matter, a pick that would make her the first Native American Cabinet secretary.
Reuters had reported Tuesday that Haaland was the leading candidate for the job overseeing the department, which employs more than 70,000 people across the United States and oversees more than 20% of the nation’s surface, including tribal lands and national parks like Yellowstone and Yosemite.
Haaland, a Democratic congresswoman from New Mexico since 2019 and a member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe, told Reuters in a recent interview she would seek to usher in an expansion of renewable energy production on federal land to contribute to the fight against climate change, and undo President Donald Trump’s focus on bolstering fossil fuels output.
“Leasing practices need to be changed. We need to make sure we’re promoting and increasing clean-energy leases,” she said.
She said she also supports conserving 30% of federal land by 2030 and using the Antiquities Act to protect culturally and ecologically sensitive land such as national monuments.
Those positions clash sharply with Trump administration efforts to maximize coal mining and drilling on public lands, and to shrink the size of national monuments created by past presidents.
Haaland’s nomination came after weeks of heavy campaigning by Native American groups and leaders, progressive activists, as well as some Democratic and Republican lawmakers.
Fawn Sharp, president of the National Congress of American Indians and of the Quinault Indian Nation in Washington state, said Haaland’s appointment signals the Biden administration will carry out some key Indian country priorities.
“It’s important to have a high-level Native American perspective at the table,” Sharp said in an interview. “Haaland would be effective especially around climate change, protecting sacred sites on tribal lands and restoring lands that have been administratively taken from tribes,” she said.
If nominated, Haaland would step down from her seat in the U.S. House, where Democrats already are facing a slim majority in 2021 after losing seats in the 2020 election.