by Ellie Gardey
New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland — a Native American through her mother’s lineage — is the newest addition to Biden’s identity politics bingo card. Haaland was tapped for Secretary of the Interior, a position with control over conservation and oil and gas drilling on public lands, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and a swath of other agencies like the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Indian Education.
Environmentalists were titillated to see a Native American nominated to take charge of land conservation and Native affairs, especially after President Trump authorized oil drilling, pipelines, and the border wall on land considered by some Native activists to be sacred.
“Historic appointment,” tweeted Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez upon the announcement. “A visionary Native woman in charge of federal lands. Unequivocally progressive. Green New Deal champion. Exquisitely experienced.”
Haaland, a first-term representative, was selected over the obviously more qualified Sen. Tom Udall, who has served five terms in the House and two terms in the Senate. Udall has been a point person for the Democratic Party on Native and environmental issues for decades, going back to his time in the House when he served as the Co-Vice Chair of the House Native American Caucus and Co-Chair of the International Conservation Caucus.
In contrast, Haaland hasn’t even finished her freshman term in Congress, and her only other applicable experience includes serving as the chair of the Democratic Party of New Mexico for two years and serving as the tribal administrator for the San Felipe Pueblo for two years.
The New York Times reported that some Biden advisers counseled him against selecting Haaland because they were concerned her lack of experience would cause managerial problems.
Haaland’s nomination was also warned against because it leaves Democrats with a razor-thin majority in the House. Their numbers were worn down after losing at least nine seats in the election (two races are still too close to call) and now three others to Biden’s cabinet. In the months before special elections can be held, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will have to contend with a remarkably small margin for error.
Yet Haaland still won the position after Native and environmentalist groups put pressure on Biden to select an Indian for interior secretary, with one petition saying the secretary should be Native American because that group “culturally is best suited to protect our natural resources in a sustainable and honorable manner.”
Haaland not only fills the Native American spot on Biden’s identity politics bingo card in his cabinet. Unfortunately for America, her selection also mollifies the progressive mob.
Haaland is a hardcore environmentalist radical whose primary objective is stopping climate change by the most extreme measures. She’s a co-sponsor of the Green New Deal, co-led legislation to end the use of fossil fuels by 2050, and unapologetically wants to ban fracking. When protests broke out over the Dakota Access Pipeline, she visited the protesters’ blockade and even cooked them a Native meal of green chili and tortillas.
Even more troubling is Haaland’s radical land-grab scheme seeking to steal back huge portions of the United States from private companies and citizens. Haaland introduced a bill in the House called “The 30 by 30 resolution to save Nature,” which calls for the United States to conserve 30 percent of its land and 30 percent of its oceans by 2030. The goal is now part of Biden’s “Plan for a Clean Energy Revolution and Environmental Justice.” The goal was also added to the 2020 Democratic platform, which, according to Haaland, was at her suggestion.
Currently, 12 percent of U.S. lands are conserved — meaning they are controlled by the government. In order for Haaland to meet her conservation goal, the government would have to take back an additional 400 million acres of land, which is greater than the land size of the 23 smallest states. Viewed another way, Haaland wants to conserve additional land larger than the size of Texas, California, Montana, Florida, and Massachusetts combined. That’s 36 million acres larger than the state of Alaska.
Barack Obama took over more than 550 million acres of land and water during his presidency — the most of any president — but the vast majority of this was water, including the addition of 261.3 million acres to the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument.
The Antiquities Act gives the president the power to set aside public land for conservation as national monuments without Congress’ approval. So even if Republicans maintain their majority in the Senate, Biden could still grab hold of huge areas of land.
Obama controversially took hold of 1.35 million acres of land when he created Bears Ears National Monument in December 2016. Conservatives felt the federal government had trampled on residents’ rights in taking the land, and the Trump administration later shrunk the monument by 85 percent in 2017.
As interior secretary, Haaland would urge Biden to seize huge parcels of land and place them under her control. In order to meet Haaland’s goal, Biden will need to take over hundreds of millions of more acres of land than Obama.
Haaland is predicted to end all new permits for drilling on public lands and implement new regulations on fracking on public lands. But she’ll face a legal battle on regulating fracking, as a federal judge ruled during the Obama administration that the interior department does not have the authority to regulate fracking and struck down the department’s fracking regulations.
The Biden administration also plans to make all public lands carbon neutral by 2030. Currently, oil and gas produced on federal lands account for one-fifth to one-fourth of U.S. carbon emissions. So you can expect that Haaland’s interior department will aim to dismantle energy production.
Progressive magazine the New Republic fawned over how Haaland’s Native American identity gives her an almost spiritual connection to land that might otherwise be used for oil drilling, gas pipelines, or the border wall.
“When she speaks of sacred sites,” the New Republic’s Nick Martin wrote, “she is not speaking about something she has learned about but something she has known. It is not abstract or foreign or academic; it is something she can connect to and defend from a place of deep understanding.” Apparently, by contrast, some white guy appointee would have lacked the same spiritual connection to nature.
Haaland plans to take over hundreds of millions of more acres that might be otherwise used for energy production or mining for the sake of conservation. It’s speculated that Haaland will give some of this land to Native American tribes. And when Haaland does so, progressives will celebrate the land grab as a Native woman taking back land from the thieving Americans who wrongfully took it in the first place.
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Ellie Gardey is a senior at the University of Notre Dame and a member of The American Spectator’s Young Writers Program.