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WASHINGTON – Oil and natural gas will continue to play a major role in America for years to come, even as the Biden administration seeks to conserve public lands and fight climate change, promises Presidential candidate Joe Biden at the head of the Ministry of the Interior.

Deb Haaland, a congresswoman from New Mexico appointed to lead the Home Office, said she is committed to “striking the right balance” as the agency manages energy development and seeks to restore and to protect the vast federal lands of the country.

Biden’s agenda, including the possible creation of a Civilian Climate Corps, “demonstrates that U.S. public lands can and should be engines of clean energy production” and “has the potential to spur the creation of jobs, ”Haaland said in testimony prepared for his confirmation hearing Tuesday. . Haaland’s remarks are intended to rebut criticism from some Republicans who have complained that his opposition to drilling on federal lands would cost thousands of jobs and hurt economies across the West.

Haaland, 60, would be the first Native American to head a Cabinet agency. The Laguna Pueblo member and two-term congresswoman often draws on her experience as a single mother and the teachings of her ancestors as a reminder that the actions the United States is taking on climate change, the environment and the sites sacred will affect generations to come.

Native Americans see Haaland’s appointment as the best chance to move from consultation on tribal issues to consent and put more land in the hands of tribal nations, either directly or through stewardship agreements. The Home Office has broad oversight of tribal affairs and energy development.

“The historical nature of my confirmation is not lost on me, but I will say that it is not about me,” Haaland said in his prepared testimony. “Rather, I hope this appointment is an inspiration to Americans – moving forward together as a single nation and creating opportunities for all of us. ”

As the daughter of a Pueblo woman, Haaland says she learned to appreciate hard work early on. Her mother is a veteran in the Navy and worked for a quarter of a century at the Bureau of Indian Education, an agency of the Department of the Interior. His father was a sailor who served in Vietnam. He received the Silver Star and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

“As a military family, we moved every few years when I was a kid, but no matter where we lived, my father taught me and my siblings to appreciate nature, no matter where we lived. either on a mountain trail or while walking along the beach, ” Haaland said.

The future congresswoman spent the summers with her grandparents in Mesita, a village in Laguna Pueblo. “It was in the cornfields with my grandfather that I learned the importance of water and the protection of our resources and where I acquired a deep respect for the Earth,” she says. .

Haaland pledged to lead the Home Department with honor and integrity and said she would be “a staunch defender of our public lands.”

She has promised to listen and work with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle and to ensure that Home Office decisions are based on science. She also pledged to “honor the sovereignty of tribal nations and recognize their role in the history of America.”

She said she fully understands the role the Home Office must play in Biden’s “build back better” plan for infrastructure and clean energy and said she would seek to protect natural resources for future generations “so that we can continue to work, live, hunt, fish and pray among them. ”

Haaland’s appointment has met with strong opposition from some Republicans who say his “radical ideas” do not fit a rural way of life, especially in the West. They cite his support for the Green New Deal and Biden’s recent moratorium on oil and gas drilling on federal lands – which does not apply to tribal lands – and his opposition to fracking and the Keystone XL pipeline.

Senator Steve Daines, R-Mont., Said Haaland will have to convince him that she is ready to break with what he called his “radical views” as a lawmaker, including opposition to the industry and the lifting of federal protections for grizzly bears.

“His record speaks for itself. She is an outright extreme left ideologue, ”Daines said in an interview.

Some Native American defenders have called Haaland’s description “radical” as a loaded reference to his tribal status.

“This kind of language is kind of a dog whistle to some people who see someone who is an Indigenous woman potentially in a position of power,” Ta’jin Perez said with the Western Native Voice group. “People are to a certain extent afraid of change.”

Daines called the notion of racial connotations in his remarks scandalous.

He is a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which will consider Haaland’s appointment at a hearing on Tuesday. Panel chair Senator Joe Manchin, DW.Va., has not said how he will vote on the nomination of Haaland, which Democrats generally support. Manchin, a moderate, said he plans to oppose Biden’s choice for budget director Neera Tanden, a crucial defection that could sink his nomination into the equally divided Senate.

National civil rights groups have joined forces with tribal leaders and environmental groups to support Haaland. A joint statement by the NAACP, UnidosUS and the American Asian and Pacific Island Health Forum hailed his appointment as “historic” and called Haaland a “proven defender of civil rights and racial justice “.

A letter signed by nearly 500 national and regional organizations representing Native Americans, environmental justice groups and outdoor businesses called Haaland “a proven leader and the right person to lead the charge against the existential threats of our time: to fight. Against Climate, Biodiversity, Extinction and COVID-19 Crises, and Racial Justice Inequalities on Our Federal Public Lands and Waters. “

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