Utah Outdoors Activist Comments On Expected Confirmation First Native American Cabinet Secretary

Feb 11, 2021

U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., could be the first Native American to serve as a Cabinet secretary if she is confirmed to lead the Department of the Interior.
Credit Wikamedia Commons

The Biden administration's nomination of Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., to head the U.S. Interior Department is seen as a momentous event for Utahns and others in the West.

Haaland is a Democrat who represents New Mexico's 1st Congressional district.

She's a citizen of the Laguna Pueblo and would be the first Native American Cabinet secretary.

While there is strong support for her among conservationists and progressives, her confirmation faces some opposition from Senate conservatives.

Amy Dominguez, communications coordinator for Utah Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting and the Outdoors, said Haaland's strong point is her reputation for getting things done.

"Her nomination is important because her impact in the work that she's done has expanded access to lands for hunters and anglers and really all who enjoy the outdoors," Dominguez emphasized. "In turn, this creates jobs and fuels rural economies."

The Interior Department conserves and manages the nation's natural resources and cultural heritage, as well as overseeing the federal government's relationship with Native American tribes.

If confirmed, Haaland would take over an agency that has been led for most of the past four years by a Republican appointee with a history of opposing public lands.

A few Senate Republicans, including Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., oppose Haaland's nomination, citing what they call her "radical" opposition to new oil and gas leases. However, administration officials say they have the votes to assure her confirmation.

Dominguez noted Haaland has been a long-time advocate for expanding and preserving public lands.

"What we feel Congresswoman Haaland brings is a passion for safeguarding and protecting our wildlife and wildlife habitat so that future generations can continue to enjoy these very special places," Dominguez remarked.

She added Haaland's nomination is particularly important in Utah because she understands how important the $12 billion outdoor recreation industry is to the state's economy.

A hearing date has not been set for her confirmation.