December 17, 2020

TUCSON, ARIZONA. Conservationists are applauding President-elect Joe Biden’s announcement today that U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM) will be his choice to fill the influential role of Secretary of the Department of Interior (DOI). Haaland, a strong supporter of conservation measures in Congress, would also be the first Native American woman to be nominated for the position.

“We’ve watched as the need for true conservation leadership has grown exponentially during the Trump years,” said Kelly Burke, Executive Director of Wild Arizona. “We look forward to Rep. Haaland bringing her conservation dynamism and deep love of Southwest wild lands and waters to the DOI.” Burke, whose non-profit group Wild Arizona focuses on inclusive conservation of Arizona’s unique natural heritage, is currently leading their work to advance permanent protection for the vast rimlands surrounding Grand Canyon, an effort which Rep. Haaland supports.

Since being elected to Congress, Haaland has been a public lands champion, sponsoring, cosponsoring, and supporting the conservation of public lands, wildlife, and natural resources, including protecting Chaco Canyon and introducing the Thirty by Thirty Resolution, setting a goal to conserve 30% of U.S. ocean and land by 2030. More importantly for Arizonans, Haaland has been a steadfast supporter of permanently protecting the Grand Canyon region from the toxic impacts of uranium mining.

“Rep. Haaland has been a tremendous champion of public lands, conservation, and the environment,” said Burke. “We look forward to working with her to move forward on key projects, including sustaining and implementing the recommendations and values of Indigenous Tribes and Nations, which we have long worked to support.”

As DOI Secretary, Rep. Haaland’s appointment would be historic—as the first Indigenous person to serve in that position. “Rep. Haaland’s role in implementing recommendations of the Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program (GCDAMP) for the Colorado River Ecosystem below the dam, would be vital to the program’s Native American members,” Burke added. “Wild Arizona works with the Bureau of Reclamation in the GCDAMP and we would hope to enhance collaborative progress on Colorado River work under her leadership,”
The Department of the Interior is responsible for the management and conservation of most federal land and natural resources, and oversees the Bureau of Reclamation, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Indian Education, and other critical agencies.

Given Interior’s role in conducting affairs with Tribal Nations across the United States, and the overlap of public lands and Native lands, Haaland has the opportunity to chart a new path forward between the United States’ government and its Indigenous communities.


Wild Arizona’s mission is to protect, unite, and restore wild lands and waters across Arizona and beyond, for the enrichment and health of all generations, and to ensure Arizona’s native plants and animals a lasting home in wild nature. Since its origins in 1979, Wild Arizona has worked to defend and protect Arizona’s outstanding landscapes through citizen outreach and advocacy, wilderness stewardship volunteerism, and field-based science, inventory, and riparian restoration, engaging nearly 3,000 members and supporters.