Rep. Deb Haaland, D-NM, has championed conservation legislation while serving in Congress. (AFGE/Flickr)

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February 5, 2021


HELENA, Mont. – New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland’s nomination to lead the U.S. Interior Department is historic for Native Americans.

As a tribal citizen of the Pueblo of Laguna, she would be the first Native American cabinet secretary.

Shelly Fyant, chair of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes in western Montana, said the nomination also is important for the divided country. She said Haaland has proven she can be bipartisan and will bring her experience as a Native American woman to the position.

“She has that holistic worldview of what the people and the land and the government really need,” said Fyant, “and those changes that could come about when we do reach across the aisle.”

Haaland has also made conservation a priority while in Congress. She helped pass public lands legislation, including the Great American Outdoors Act and America’s Conservation Enhancement Act.

Executive Director of the Montana Wildlife Federation, Frank Szollosi, said Haaland backed the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, which would provide nearly $1.5 billion annually to states and tribes to restore at-risk wildlife species.

He said her commitment to nature goes beyond that as well.

“She is a supporter and has been a champion of what are called the ’30 by 30′ goals to conserve and restore public and private lands,” said Szollosi. “It’s a priority for hunters and anglers.”

The ’30 by 30′ goal aims to conserve 30% of U.S. land by 2030. President Joe Biden has also committed to this.

Haaland’s past is meaningful for other reasons, Szollosi added. Her father was in the Marines for 30 years, and her mother is a Navy veteran.

Szollosi said that’s important for Montana, the state with highest number of veterans per capita in the U.S.

“We represent a lot of hunters and anglers who are veterans as well, and our public lands are a special place for folks who served,” said Szollosi. “And the next Secretary of Interior – it’s important for that person to appreciate that, and we believe Representative Haaland does with sincerity.”