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Local Opinion: Haaland’s nomination full of promise for public lands
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Local Opinion: Haaland’s nomination full of promise for public lands

The former New Mexico Congresswoman is up for Interior Secretary in the Biden administration

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Here in Arizona, the outdoors are our heritage. We are a state of hikers, hunters, climbers, anglers and adventurers. Protecting our public lands and outdoor spaces goes hand in hand with advancing public health, our economy, and the environment. With rampant corporate development overtaking our federal lands, a drought ripping through the Southwest, and destructive climate events constantly destabilizing our ecosystems, we need leaders at the federal level who know how precious our natural landscape is and who will fight to protect it.

President Biden’s nomination of Rep. Debra Haaland to lead the U.S. Department of the Interior is not only historic in its own right, but it also promises strong protections for our public lands. After four years marked by giveaways to corporate polluters from the previous administration, we are witnessing the dawning of a new day.

Biden’s momentous executive order issuing a pause on all new oil and gas leasing on federal lands was only the beginning of the bold agenda that Haaland will pursue as she steps into this role.

Haaland’s work will center around environmental justice and uplifting the needs of those who bear the brunt of the climate crisis and environmental degradation. Not only has Rep. Haaland been a vocal proponent of equitable climate policy while representing New Mexico in Congress, but she has also elevated Indigenous voices and brought attention to the fight to protect Native lands. In her role as secretary of the Interior, she will champion environmental justice while helping to implement Biden’s bold climate policy.

It also is helpful that Haaland is from our neighboring state of New Mexico, and understands intimately the unprecedented drought we are currently facing, as it impacts her own constituents as much as it impacts us. This drought has hit our agricultural sector hard and is having real impacts on our land and our daily lives.

We need investments in immediate relief, prolonged resiliency, and long-term solutions to overarching climate problems such as these. Haaland is the sort of leader who will put real farmers and everyday Arizonans ahead of corporate polluters in the fight for jobs and justice.

Once at the Interior Department, Haaland will have the opportunity to work on key initiatives that benefit our public lands and the economy. For instance, habitat resiliency projects provide jobs and prepare us for the inevitable climate disasters we face now and into the future. Similarly, the creation of a 21st-century civilian climate corps is something we here at the Arizona Wildlife Federation have pushed for the same reasons.

Haaland also has a record of leading legislation that promotes partnerships between Indigenous tribal lands and federal lands to promote conservation and meet the goals of the environmental justice movement. Centering environmental justice is a key part of Biden’s policy proposals, and it is the only way to build towards a just and equitable future for our public lands and clean energy economy.

Senator Mark Kelly has voiced his support for Rep. Haaland’s nomination, a welcome endorsement as her key confirmation vote approaches. We need our leaders in Congress to fulfill their obligation to us by continuing to uplift Biden’s nominations to key climate positions, and, after confirming these nominees, working alongside them on federal legislation that mirrors the Cabinet’s work to tackle the climate crisis.

This week, for Sens. Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema, that means supporting the swift confirmation of Deb Haaland to lead the Department of the Interior. Arizona’s communities and public lands are relying on them.

Michael Cravens is the conservation and advocacy coordinator for the Arizona Wildlife Federation. Michael, his wife, along with their two small children, and a German shorthaired Pointer reside in the Phoenix Valley, but they never miss a weekend out exploring Arizona’s beautiful and vast public lands.

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