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ASLA Congratulates New Interior Secretary on Her Historic Confirmation

Department of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland (NM)

On March 15, then-Representative Deb Haaland (NM) was confirmed by the U.S. Senate to become the U.S. Secretary of the Interior and was sworn into office on the following day. Her nomination and confirmation are historic in nature. Sec. Haaland, a 35th generation New Mexican and enrolled member of the Laguna Pueblo Tribe, is the first ever Native American cabinet secretary.

Sec. Haaland was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018 from New Mexico’s First Congressional District, which encompasses greater Albuquerque and includes the Pueblo of Laguna. Along with Rep. Sharice Davids (KS), Sec. Haaland is one of the first Native American women elected to the U.S. Congress. Upon arriving to Congress, Sec. Haaland was given a seat on the House Committee on Natural Resources and named its Vice Chair. Additionally, she was appointed Chair of the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, a rarity and high honor for a first-term Representative.

During her time in the House of Representatives, Sec. Haaland was a champion for the protection of public lands, conservation, environmental justice, climate change mitigation, and clean water. She supported ASLA priorities such as permanent authorization of and fully funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and funding the National Park Service (NPS) and other land management agencies’ maintenance backlogs. This support culminated in her co-sponsorship of the Great American Outdoors Act, which she will now implement.

The Department of the Interior (DOI) has 70,000 employees and manages America’s natural resources, cultural heritage, and roughly 75 percent of our public lands. Agencies within the department include the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Reclamation, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The DOI employs many landscape architects in its offices, parks, public lands, and sites across the nation, in addition to working with many civilian landscape architects who do business with and for the Department.

On March 17, the New Mexico Chapter of ASLA and government affairs staff sent a letter to Sec. Haaland congratulating her on her confirmation and providing insight on climate change, natural and cultural resources, and outdoor recreation policies for our public lands. ASLA National followed up with our own letter of congratulations, with an offer to work with the Secretary and DOI staff on issues of mutual importance. This is in addition to ASLA sharing a comprehensive set of policy recommendations with the administration.

Besides the implementation of the Great American Outdoors Act, there are many important issues the Department must confront in the coming months regarding public lands, climate change, environmental justice, and energy use and extraction on public lands. ASLA government affairs will continue to work with Sec. Haaland and her staff to ensure that landscape architects have a seat at the table.

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