New DOI leader brings tenacity


Haaland inspires new opportunity

  • Haaland

Communities and organizations across the nation have applauded President-elect Joe Biden’s pick for Secretary of the Department of the Interior, a position with authority over the thousands of acres managed by the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service in Gunnison County.

Biden tapped New Mexico Congresswoman Deb Haaland for the cabinet position in December. If confirmed, she will become the first Native American to serve in the position.

In addition to the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service, the Department of the Interior oversees the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Bureau of Indian Education.

She is expected to replace current Secretary David Bernhardt.

Haaland, a member of the Pueblo Laguna tribe, was sworn in as a member of Congress in 2019. She will oversee the management of more than 500 million acres of ancestral and public lands.

The Denver-based group Conservation Colorado said in a statement after Biden’s choice became public on Dec. 17, “It is a historic day for indigenous people and nations, who have lived and worked on the lands overseen by the Department of Interior.

“Her confirmation will inspire the country to include tribes in decisions about public lands protections.”

In February 2020, Haaland led the effort to introduce the Thirty by Thirty Resolution to Save Nature, a goal for the federal government to conserve 30% of ocean and land by 2030.

Local Bureau of Land Management personnel have said they are excited by the prospect of her tenure, and she’s received praise from Gunnison Valley conservation groups.

“From what I can tell, Congresswoman Haaland is a champion toward leading effective measures,” Brett Henderson, executive director of the local High Country Conservation Advocates, said.

Henderson said Haaland’s appointment and Biden’s overall conservation plan aligns with High Country’s mission to uphold the environmental integrity of the community by collaborating with local stakeholders and policymakers.

Personally, Henderson said he’s “excited about the prospect” of having Haaland in the position, particularly as she is a Native American and can better serve her population.

“It’s an opportunity to harness the power of nature, and improve it for all Americans and outsiders; Henderson said.

(Roberta Marquette can be contacted at 970.641.1414 or at