The U.S. Department of the Interior launched the new Indian Youth Service Corps and announced the program guidelines on Friday. This program—which was created through the John S. McCain III 21st Century Conservation Service Corps Act—is modeled after other successful programs like the Ancestral Lands Conservation Corps. The Department of the Interior is providing $2 million to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, $700,000 to the National Park Service and $600,000 to the Bureau of Reclamation to establish this program. Its goal is to provide opportunities for Native Americans ages 16 to 30 to gain work experience in the natural resources field while also preserving traditional practices of land stewardship and creating awareness of Indigenous culture and history. During a press conference on Friday, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland spoke about her Laguna Pueblo connections and being in the outdoors with her grandfather.
When it comes to protecting the Greater Chaco region, the answers are not always simple, as demonstrated by the ongoing public comment period regarding withdrawing federal lands around Chaco Culture National Historical Park from mineral leasing for two decades. The oil-rich section of the San Juan Basin has been at the center of debate as Indigenous and environmental groups push for increased protection of the sacred landscape, including an end to new leases that lead to increased emissions, pollution of land and water, and oil-field traffic impacting surrounding communities. But, while the withdrawal does not affect allottee mineral rights, some of the Navajo allottees who live in the proposed buffer zone say withdrawing the lands means cutting off their access to one of the few sources of economic opportunity in the remote area. This process began in November with a secretarial order from the U.S. Department of the Interior. Public comments must be submitted by April 6.
Leading up to that deadline, the Bureau of Land Management hosted meetings on Wednesday in Farmington to provide information to the public about the process.
The U.S. Department of the Interior announced on Monday that New Mexico is eligible for approximately $2.4 million in federal funding through the abandoned mine land section of a bipartisan infrastructure package that was signed into law in November. This funding is intended to help create jobs and economic opportunities for areas that have been dependent on coal mining. The law allocates a total of $11.3 billion for the Abandoned Mine Land program over 15 years and Monday’s announcement included $725 million of available funding for states, as well as Navajo Nation, during the federal Fiscal Year 2022. Federal fiscal years start on Oct. 1 and end on Sept.
Randy Pacheco, the chief executive officer of the San Juan Basin-based A-Plus Well Service, said the state’s workforce needs to be built up to address the orphaned oil and natural gas wells that dot the landscape in many states including New Mexico.
Pacheco was one of the panelists who participated in a roundtable-style webinar discussion about the federal orphaned well program and the Bureau of Land Management’s efforts to implement it. The bureau hosted the webinar, which drew hundreds of people, on Thursday. The bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that was signed into law in November provided $4.7 billion for clean-up, remediation and restoration at orphaned well sites. That led to the U.S. Department of the Interior releasing initial guidelines on Dec. 17 for states to apply for funding.
See our entire countdown of 2021 top stories, to date, here. A Native American woman took the helm of the Department of the Interior, which oversees the Bureau of Indian Affairs, for the first time ever in March after being nominated for the post by President Joe Biden. The U.S. Senate confirmed Deb Haaland, a member of Laguna Pueblo and native New Mexican, as the Secretary of the Interior on March 15 on a 51 to 40 vote. Related: Haaland confirmed as Interior Secretary
Haaland previously served as a congresswoman representing New Mexico’s First Congressional District. She stepped down from that role upon being confirmed to her new position.
While environmental activists praise various aspects of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s newly released report on federal oil and gas leasing and permitting processes, some say the report is incomplete and fails to account for the impact fossil fuel emissions have on climate change. The department released the report to comply with an executive order President Joe Biden issued titled “Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad.” This executive order directed the Department of the Interior to review leasing and permitting processes. The report was released Friday and consists of 18 pages.
The report includes recommendations such as raising royalty rates, charging more for rent and requiring higher levels of bonding.
While the recommendations are supported by the environmental advocates, many of whom have been pushing for such reforms for years, some say that the recommendations do not go far enough to address the climate crisis. “We’re sympathetic to the political gauntlet the Biden administration must run, but it had a choice to run it with power, speed, and agility. Instead, it’s running that gauntlet, weak, slow, and tentative,” said Erik Schlenker-Goodrich, executive director of the Western Environmental Law Center, in a press release.
President Joe Biden’s administration took steps today to begin the process of banning new oil and gas leases within a 10 mile buffer zone of Chaco Culture National Historical Park for 20 years. Monday, the president announced a series of initiatives focused on Indigenous communities, including the Chaco Canyon buffer zone. This came during the Tribal Nations Summit. The president instructed the U.S. Department of the Interior to initiate the process for withdrawing the area around the park from new oil and gas leasing for two decades. Over the last decade, Native American groups in both Arizona and New Mexico have been lobbying for protections of the sacred Chaco region from oil and gas development, leading to several congressional actions that temporarily deferred leasing.
Deb Haaland delivered her final speech in Congress on Tuesday. Haaland resigned from her congressional seat a day after her confirmation as Secretary of the Department of the Interior. “I thought I would have more time here, but we are called to service in different ways. Though I’m excited to become the first Native American cabinet secretary in history,” she said. “I’m also sad to leave this chamber.”
She won her second reelection in the 1st Congressional District last November, then President Joe Biden picked her to head the Secretary of the Interior.
The U.S. Senate voted to confirm Deb Haaland as Secretary of the Interior on a 51-40 vote Monday afternoon. With the vote, Haaland, an enrolled member of the Laguna Pueblo, became the first Native American cabinet-level official in U.S. history and put her in charge of a sprawling department with key interactions with sovereign tribal governments. The Interior Department is the parent agency of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. “Thank you to the U.S. Senate for your confirmation vote today,” Haaland said on Twitter after the vote. “As Secretary of @Interior, I look forward to collaborating with all of you.
The U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted to advance U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland’s nomination to lead the Interior Department. The committee voted 11-9, with Republican Lisa Murkowski of Alaska voting along with Democrats, to send the nomination to the full Senate. U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico was among the Democrats who voted to advance Haaland’s nomination. “I am pleased that Congresswoman Haaland’s confirmation is advancing, and I am eager for the full Senate to take up her nomination so she can get to work protecting our natural heritage for future generations,” Heinrich said. Heinrich, a second-term Senator, has been a key voice supporting Haaland’s nomination.