As the Biden Administration continues to work through their first 100 days in office, the Senate has been working through confirming his cabinet secretaries. On February 23 at 9:30AM EST, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources will hold a hearing to consider the nomination of Congresswoman Deb Haaland of New Mexico to be the next Secretary of the Interior.
Rep. Haaland has served in the House of Representatives after first being elected in 2019. Prior to that, she was Chair of the New Mexico Democrat Party. She serves on the House Natural Resources Committee and is the chair of the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands.
As the potential next Secretary for the Department of the Interior, Haaland will be responsible for managing the nation’s public lands and wildlife, including directly overseeing agencies of critical importance to hunters like the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
Here are 5 questions every hunter should be asking Congresswoman Haaland.
Question 1: Will you commit to a no-net-loss policy for hunting and fishing access on public lands?
Background: The previous administration was responsible for opening or expanding millions of acres for sportsmen and women to hunt, fish, and shoot. As more Americans are turning to the outdoors in record numbers during the pandemic, can Haaland commit to NOT closing any public lands currently open to hunting and fishing?
Question 2: Will you commit to protecting individuals’ personal information from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), by directing DOI FOIA offices to consistently withhold personal information, as permitted by federal law, to protect the privacy rights of American citizens?
Background: There have been numerous attempts by anti-hunting organizations to obtain personal information of sportsmen and women whose names are in USFWS records as a way of harassing them. The USFWS, in particular, has an inconsistent record regarding the information it discloses in response to FOIA requests, especially related to the identities of international hunters. In some instances, information disclosed has been abused on social media and elsewhere to attack law-abiding hunters with death threats to hunters and their families, and in extreme cases hunters have had to move houses, lost their jobs, etc. Federal courts have upheld the USFWS’ ability to withhold personal information from disclosure and faulted the USFWS for its inconsistent approach in determining what information it can legally withhold.
Question 3: Will you commit today keeping recent changes made to the Endangered Species Act intact to more closely follow the law while also celebrating conservation success stories like the recent delisting of the Grey Wolf?
Background: The previous administration received praise from scientist and wildlife officials for amending the Endangered Species Act in order to more easily de-list species, like the Gray Wolf, that have fully recovered, subsequently freeing up resources that can be used to assist the recovery of other endangered or threatened species. Will Haaland and her team be guided by science when making listing decisions?
Question 4: President Biden’s Executive Actions to Tackle the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad, Create Jobs, and Restore Scientific Integrity Across Federal Government commits to the goal of conserving at least 30 percent of our lands and oceans by 2030. What is your baseline definition of “conserving” in this case? Do you recognize existing management levels/actions that currently afford protections? The executive order also launches a process for stakeholder engagement. Will you commit to providing sportsmen with an equitable voice in the stakeholder-engaged process?
Background: As America’s original conservationists, the hunting and fishing community has proactively supported strategic efforts to conserve our nation’s terrestrial, freshwater, and marine ecosystems for more than a century. Sportsmen and women deserve a seat at the table when policy proposals are debated about conserving lands and waters in the United States.
Question 5: In order to conform with the directives of the Executive Order on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities through the Federal Government, and in order to protect the rights of underserved indigenous and rural communities, will you review and revise USFWS regulations to effectively take into account and give significant consideration to the opinions and views of relevant foreign countries and indigenous or rural communities during USFWS decision-making processes?
Background: Local wildlife and conservation professionals, especially ones living closest to those species, know how to best manage them. Will Haaland take into consideration concerns and hear the voices from stakeholders from Africa to Alaska?