See Our Shocked Face? Haaland, DOI Renege on Agreements

See Our Shocked Face?  Haaland, DOI Renege on Agreements

April 19, 2021

Anyone who paid attention during Department of Interior Deb Haaland’s confirmation hearings clearly saw someone out of their league.  Haaland’s inability to answer simple questions related to running Interior on a day-to-day basis led many – including Power The Future – to call for Senators to reject her nomination.

But, in spite of concerns and misgivings on Haaland’s background, clear anti-traditional-energy bias and potential impacts to energy-centric states, she was confirmed by the Senate, and took the oath of office to lead Interior.

So, color us shocked that some of those same Senators were “surprised” when Haaland issued a number of orders on Friday that impacted their states.

One order in particular that rankled Alaska Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan was a two-year stay on implementing already-signed Public Lands Orders (PLOs). Executed during the Trump administration, one such PLO authorized land distribution to Vietnam-era Alaska Natives who were fighting for their country when the original time period came for choosing lands for their families.  When they returned, the federal government didn’t allow the land allocation, saying the deadline had passed.  The fight to right that wrong was rectified last year, but thanks to Haaland, will be put on hold again.

Murkowski and Sullivan both put out press releases decrying the actions, while pointing the finger at Haaland.

From Murkowski:

This decision by the Interior Department is continuing to deny Alaska our rights to conveyed lands and goes against the advice of the career experts who determined that the environmental analysis under NEPA was adequate to support the decision to lift these withdrawal restrictions. It also wastes the tens of millions of dollars and a decade of work that went into the development of these resource management plans.

Secretary Haaland at her confirmation hearing promised she would follow the law, trust the science, trust the career experts, and honor the trust relationship between the federal government and Alaska Natives and Native Americans; this decision goes against all three. Once again this Administration has taken actions which undermine responsible land management and made decisions not based on science or the law.

And to the Alaska Native Vietnam Veterans who have waited decades for their Native allotments, this is an insult to injury to tell them to continue to wait. The actions today by Secretary Haaland are not only hurtful but wrongheaded. The Department has an obligation to be upfront about the exact details of their concerns with the existing PLOs and completed this review as quickly as possible.

From Sullivan:

Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland has chosen to start off her relationship with Alaska by going back on the promises she made to me prior to her confirmation, undermining rural communities, and stabbing Alaska Native Vietnam-era veterans in the back.

On Friday, the Interior Department announced it will impose a two-year stay on the implementation of several new Public Land Orders (PLOs) in Alaska, despite the PLOs already being signed. Alaskans have been waiting decades for the federal government to remove the encumbrances through these five PLOs, and the Biden administration has now effectively kicked that decision into the future, perhaps indefinitely. The impact will be felt most acutely in rural Alaska, where communities will be denied access to gravel resources to build out local village infrastructure and ANCSA and Statehood land settlements will be further delayed. Most egregiously, though, this misguided decision will drastically limit the lands available to thousands of Alaska Native Vietnam-era veterans who were unable to select land allotments due to their military service. It is deeply saddening and shameful that, as a result of Secretary Haaland’s decision, Alaska Native veterans who served their country admirably, and have waited decades for land allotments, may not live long enough to see them. I have spent an enormous amount of time explaining this situation to the secretary—including just before the announcement—but she put her allegiance to radical green groups over heroic Native veterans and other Alaskans. Secretary Haaland owes all of these Alaskans an explanation and, frankly, an apology.

What shouldn’t be surprising – but apparently must be – is that Haaland isn’t looking out for Alaska, but only for the extremist environmentalists and anti-Alaskan interests she has pledged her allegiance to.  It is a shame that Alaska Natives will pay the price for those priorities, but had a couple of Senators shown strength in declining Haaland’s nomination, this situation may not have had to play out, and the feigned “shocked faces” not been so visible.