As a Native Montanan with ancestral ties stretching back hundreds of generations, I recognize the proud connection my fellow Montanans have with the landscape, as it provides all of us with a
beautiful and unparalleled way of life. This deep appreciation for the soil, water, air and wildlife is a transcendent sentiment shared by our nominee for Secretary of the Interior, Rep. Deb Haaland.
Rep. Haaland, D-NM, comes from a traditional home on the Laguna Pueblo, steeped in self-discipline, environmental respect and spiritual beauty. As an inheritor of an ancient heritage based in sustainability, she understands our future is dependent on a vibrant ecosystem with clean water and abundant wildlife.
She championed those values in Congress, serving as vice chair of the House Natural Resources Committee and chair of the National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands subcommittee. She is the first Native American nominated for a cabinet post. Rep. Haaland is able and qualified. Her appointment would begin to heal decades of mistrust tribal communities have with Interior. Her nomination is a cause for celebration in Native communities throughout the nation, and a beacon of hope for Indigenous people around the world.
I urge Montana’s senators to confirm her for the job.
The Department of the Interior is at a historic reckoning point. Although it’s been 50 years since the Era of Self-Determination began, and a decade following the Cobell Indian Trust Settlement, the Bureau of Indian Affairs still struggles to meet the standards and requirements that these landmark Indian laws were meant to ensure. Deb Haaland understands, as well as anyone, the need to strengthen a good faith relationship between Native nations and the federal bureaucracy to which they are so intricately linked.
Haaland fully supports a science-based, and economically sensible, approach to the greatest existential threat of our time — climate change. Ms. Haaland recognizes the importance of seeing the impacts our actions have, seven generations into the future. Research shows conclusively, year after year, decade after decade, that we need to move away from fossil fuels. From shrinking glaciers in our namesake national park to increased heatwaves and fires, Montanans experience the effects all around us. According to the EPA, Montana’s overall temperature has increased by two degrees over the last century, producing earlier snowmelt, threatening water supplies and agriculture, and increasing wildfire.
Beyond the environmental necessity of working to create a cleaner, more sustainable way of life, the coal and oil industries are proving to be unwise business investments. The dropping price of oil has rippled across jobs markets around the globe, sinking the value of the recently booming fracking industry and causing layoffs in places like the Bakken oilfields. Most of those jobs are not coming back, and the message is clear: renewable energies are the future.
Haaland supports a national policy to wean us off fossil fuels, re-train workers and create more jobs. She will help us tap into our nation’s potent combination of renewable resources and energy infrastructure. We can and must do better with what we have, and that includes diversifying our economies rooted in the land. A recent U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis found the outdoor industry provides $458.9 billion in gross domestic product and $788 billion in consumer spending for our country.
Montana generates $7.1 billion from its own outdoor economy and supports 71,000 jobs. Haaland will continue and expand this opportunity.
Finally, the great outdoors remain our last bastion; not just for Indigenous people, but for all Americans who seek the healing and inspiration of bright sunlight, fresh air and water, and birdsong. Our nation must continue to set our sights on a healthy landscape, rich with biodiversity and responsibly managed to the benefit of all.
That would be another essential achievement that Deb Haaland is well-positioned to take on as our next Interior Secretary. For the sake of history, and for the promise of our future, she is the
right person for this moment.
Shane Doyle, EdD, is a member of the Apsáalooke Nation, and an educational consultant who lives in Bozeman, MT
Bozeman Daily Chronicle Guest Editorial 2/20/21