Washington, D.C. – In an Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing today, U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) discussed with Congresswoman Deb Haaland (D.-N.M.-01), President Biden’s nominee for Interior Secretary , the importance of intergovernmental collaboration on public land management. She also secured commitments from the nominee, should she be confirmed, to review the Senator’s End Speculative Oil and Gas Leasing Act and continue efforts to work with the Department of Defense (DoD) to find solutions to DoD’s proposals to modernize the Nevada Test and Training Range and Naval Air Station Fallon.
The Senator began by congratulating Congresswoman Haaland on the historic nature of her nomination, saying, “Congresswoman Haaland, thank you for being here today, and thank you for your dedication to public service and for your family’s long history of military service to our nation. I also recognize, as a member of Senate Indian Affairs, the historic nature of your nomination as the first Native American woman nominated by the President to lead the Department of the Interior. I want to thank you for taking the time with me prior to this hearing to go through some issues and talk about how we can collaboratively work together for the State of Nevada.”
She continued, “As you and I previously discussed, over 80% of the land in Nevada is managed by the Federal Government. About 63% is specifically managed by the Bureau of Land Management, so public lands are vital to our state’s economy, whether that be mining, grazing, outdoor recreation or other means. It is so important that we have a good working relationship with the Department of the Interior and the federal government.”
She also discussed her priorities for the incoming administration relating to the Department of the Interior, saying, “Having greater interagency and intergovernmental collaboration on permitting and compliance is important. Having the BLM prioritize numerous pending reality applications and recreation and public purposes leases is important to us. Making sure that there is greater alignment between the BLM and state and local governments on renewable energy and transmissions citing is important to Nevada. And prioritizing the distribution of funds from the Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act (SNPLMA) special account for regional conservation and environmental enhancement projects is important. So Congresswoman, can I have your commitment that you and your staff will prioritize efficient land management and greater collaboration with the State of Nevada?”
Congresswoman Haaland responded in the affirmative.
Senator Cortez Masto also asked if Congresswoman Haaland would be willing to review and consider the value of implementing the Senator’s End Speculative Oil and Gas Leasing Act, which prohibits BLM from offering leases on lands determined to have low or no drilling potential.
“I’d be happy to review your bill,” Congresswoman Haaland responded. “I’ll have to read it first, but I’d love to work with you [in] any capacity on issues you think are important.”
The Senator continued, “In addition to all we have talked about, I have worked very hard with my colleagues in Nevada and impacted communities and industries on alternative proposals to the Defense Department’s modernization proposals to the Nellis and Fallon training ranges in my state. In both instances, the Air Force and Navy have sought to significantly and controversially expand their operations, which would have substantive impacts on lands managed by the Interior Department, including wildlife refuges, popular recreational areas, family farms and ranches, and important tribal and cultural resources. The Department of the Interior must be actively engaged in these discussions and finding reasonable, workable, and collaborative solutions. If confirmed, will you commit that the Department of the Interior will seek to work with all stakeholders to find such solutions?”
The Congresswoman responded by saying, “We will always work to strike the right balance. And I appreciate you caring about this issue, Senator.”
Lastly, Senator Cortez Masto asked if the Department of the Interior would commit to expeditiously establishing Inter-governmental Executive Committees at both the Nevada Test and Training Range and Naval Air Station Fallon.
Congresswoman Haaland affirmed her desire to promote collaboration and implement these programs.
A full video of the hearing can be found here.
During the 116th Congress, Senator Cortez Masto introduced the End Speculative Oil and Gas Leasing Act, to prohibit oil and gas leasing on public lands that have low or no potential for development. The recently-enacted Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 included provisions that Senator Cortez Masto has championed to extend renewable investment tax credits for Nevada’s solar energy industry and promote geothermal energy. In addition, the FY 2021 National Defense Reauthorization Act (NDAA) included legislation she drafted to create Intergovernmental Executive Committees (IEC) at both the Nevada Test and Training Range and the Naval Air Station Fallon. These committees will allow local, state, and tribal governments a public forum to collaborate with the military in providing advice and exchanging information on the management of natural and cultural resources within local lands used for military purposes.