Updated: Dec 19, 2020
Equally American, a nonprofit group advocating for U.S. territories, welcomed President-elect Joe Biden's appointment of Rep. Deb Haaland to serve as secretary of the Interior, replacing David L. Bernhardt.
“As America’s only public interest law organization fighting for equality for residents of U.S. territories, Equally American looks forward to partnering with President-elect Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, and Secretary of the Interior-designate Haaland to serve the more than 4 million Americans who live in the territories— 98 percent of whom are racial or ethnic minorities or indigenous peoples,” said Neal Weare, president of Equally American.
“Equally American encourages the incoming Biden/Harris administration to work with community and political leaders from the territories—especially leaders from underserved indigenous communities—to provide equal rights and fair treatment for residents of U.S. territories," he added.
Weare urged the new administration to reject any "continued reliance on the controversial Insular Cases, which for over a century have relegated those living in the territories to second-class status. We also urge the new administration to support Medicaid parity, Supplemental Security Income equality, voting rights, tax fairness, and the right of self-determination in each of the territories.
Biden nominated Haaland to DOI on Friday.
The Department of the Interior manages the country’s national parks and approximately 450 million acres of public lands, oversees wildlife and other conservation efforts, and upholds federal trust responsibilities to indigenous communities.
Under DOI, the Office Insular and International Affairs and the Office of Insular Affairs carry out the Secretary of the Interior’s responsibilities for the U.S. territories of American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Additionally, the Office of Insular Affairs administers and oversees federal assistance under the Compacts of Free Association to the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands and Palau.
Haaland has championed the environment and public lands during her tenure in Congress and has introduced legislation to make parks and monuments more welcoming by removing racist, anti-Indigenous and offensive names from public spaces.
As Interior Secretary she will be uniquely positioned to build on her efforts to strengthen nation-to-nation relationships with Native Tribes. Haaland would be the first Native American to hold a cabinet position.
Biden has committed to prioritizing climate action, including setting a national goal to protect 30 percent of lands and waters by 2030 and action to halt new fossil fuel leasing on public lands. Haaland has been a sponsor of the 30x30 effort in the House.
“Rep. Haaland is eminently qualified to lead the Department of the Interior, and the Sierra Club celebrates her historic nomination," said Chris Hill, acting director of Sierra Club’s Our Wild America campaign issued the following statement.
"Over the last four years, the department’s exclusive focus on polluter profits and deeply-embedded culture of corruption has left much to repair, both within the agency and on the ground. We’re confident Rep. Haaland can reset the Department of the Interior. We look forward to a transformation in how our country’s lands and waters are used and managed--prioritizing Indigenous-led conservation, making public lands a part of the climate solution, and integrating equity into decision making at every level.”