Romney, Lee vote against Deb Haaland’s historic confirmation as green groups, energy interests weigh in

As first Native American in a presidential Cabinet, new Interior boss is expected to chart a new course favoring conservation over extraction. Bears Ears and Grand Staircase are top issues.

(Graeme Jennings/Pool via AP) Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., speaks during a Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing on her nomination to be Interior secretary, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021 on Capitol Hill in Washington. The Senate voted Monday to confirm her in a 51-40 tally.

Utah’s two senators voted against confirming Rep. Deb. Haaland, D-N.M., as secretary of Interior, citing her past support for what they and other Republican critics contend is a “radical” agenda aimed at heavy-handed federal oversight of public lands and their resources.

Sen. Mitt Romney said he appreciated his meeting with Haaland to discuss national monuments and other public lands issues important to Utah.

“Based on Rep. Haaland’s record and views on land management and energy resources, including her support for radical policies like the Green New Deal,” Romney said, “I am not able to support her confirmation to lead the Interior Department.”

In a 51-40 vote Monday, the Senate approved Haaland’s historic nomination, making her the first Native American to serve in a presidential Cabinet. She is an enrolled member of New Mexico’s Laguna Pueblo.

“We congratulate Secretary Haaland,” said Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, “and look forward to working closely with her on finding solutions to the public lands, grazing, energy and recreation challenges that are so important to Utahns.”

Haaland’s confirmation drew praise from environmental and tribal groups active in Utah, while energy industry groups asked that she work with them to keep public lands open to mineral development.

One of the first items on Haaland’s to-do list will be to follow up on President Joe Biden’s Inauguration Day order calling for a review of then-President Donald Trump’s reduction of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments.

Utah’s other Republican senator, Mike Lee, who also voted against her confirmation, extracted a promise from Haaland during Senate hearings that she would visit Utah before recommending any moves on the two monuments.

Here is a sampling of the reactions to Haaland’s elevation:

“Utah’s public lands suffered significant damage under the mismanagement of the Trump administration. As the first Native American to head the Department of Interior and a Westerner, Secretary Haaland is uniquely positioned to understand the importance of restoring Bears Ears and Grand Staircase national monuments, protecting cultural resources from the impacts of off-road vehicle use, and establishing a forward-looking, science-oriented approach to the stewardship of wild public lands.”

— Scott Groene, executive director of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.

“The blood and treasure of our ancestors … paved the way for this long-overdue confirmation. All of Indian country as well as the rest of the nation will be well served. So often we talk about, in the national discourse, people that are involved in the actual day-to-day fights that we’re all engaged with. And with that reflection, I think Deb will bring great insight and an earnest quality to the ... work at the Department of Interior.”

— Patrick Gonzales-Rogers, executive director of the Bears Ears Inter-tribal Coalition.

“In our role as the voice for Utah’s oil and natural gas industry, we are committed to working with elected and appointed officials from both sides of the aisle. We are committed to telling the story of Utah oil and natural gas to Secretary Haaland and hopefully working collaboratively with her office to find common ground on issues that affect us all.”

Rikki Hrenko-Browning, president of the Utah Petroleum Association.

“Secretary Haaland brings invaluable perspective and expertise to this role as President Biden works to swiftly undo four years of destruction under the previous administration and protect our land, air, water and climate. She will be a champion for smart policies that help our region exist in better balance with nature while centering the needs of underrepresented communities — particularly Indigenous communities who have lived on and managed this land for hundreds of years — in decision-making.”

Jon Goldin-Dubois, president of Western Resource Advocates.

“We can build on the significant environmental progress the nation has made while simultaneously leading the world in energy production, or we can return to the days of relying on energy from foreign nations with lower environmental standards. Secretary Haaland’s first priority should be to lift the federal leasing pause, which is creating significant uncertainty and undermining our nation’s energy security, economic growth and environmental progress. We have a shared goal for a low-carbon future, but this is the wrong approach and will only lead to more foreign energy imports from countries hostile to American interests.”

Mike Sommers, president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute.

“Haaland’s lived experiences are critical to reorienting Interior toward people, Indigenous rights and climate-focused, science-based conservation. We look forward to seeing our country’s lands and waters integrated with efforts to increase outdoors equity, mitigate climate impacts by protecting 30% of lands and water by 2030, and foster healthier communities.”

Chris Hill, acting director of Sierra Club’s Our Wild America campaign.

“As our country is finally awakening to the injustices that Indigenous people have endured, and in the throes of a climate and nature crisis, we must chart a new path after four years of out-of-control exploitation and devastation. Secretary Haaland is, without doubt, the right person to guide the Department of Interior. As Secretary Haaland takes on this very challenging role, we want her to know that she is not alone. WildEarth Guardians and our members will dig in alongside her to make the essential shifts that are critical, especially when so much — justice, equity, climate action, biodiversity and public lands — hangs in the balance.”

Sarah McMillan, WildEarth Guardians’ conservation director.

“Throughout her career, Rep. Haaland has worked to improve and increase access to the outdoors for recreationists, and she understands how this access to public lands and waters is vital to rural communities and the nation’s outdoor recreation economy. We look forward to continuing to work with her as secretary on outdoor recreation issues, access and economies.”

Lindsey Davis, acting executive director of Outdoor Recreation Roundtable.

“Deb Haaland just made history as America’s first Indigenous Cabinet secretary — a landmark that’s more than 200 years overdue. Charged with overseeing more than 400 million acres of American land, Haaland is the right person to lead America’s transition to a renewable energy future. The tasks ahead are enormous, but Deb Haaland knows the role America’s lands must play in stopping climate change, addressing the biodiversity crisis, and preparing communities for the next 200 years.”

Jennifer Rokala, executive director of Center for Western Priorities.