PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Department of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in its first year, the Biden administration has already enacted changes intended to address climate change, wildfire and drought in the Pacific Northwest.
Haaland spoke with KOIN 6 News Thursday to discuss the Biden administration’s achievements in the last year.
When it comes to drought and wildfire, her office said in 2021, the Department of the Interior has increased pay for thousands of firefighters and coordinated with the Department of Agriculture to conserve water in the Klamath River Basin.
The Department has shifted investments to address historic drought conditions in communities around the country and has been holding listening sessions and roundtables across the West to hear from irrigators, local officials, Tribes, stakeholders, farmers and ranchers.
“We have a collaborative agreement to make sure that we are doing everything we can to take this issue and work with local communities, with tribal communities to make sure that we can develop best practices and of course, make sure that communities have the support they need to fight these terrible fires,” Haaland said.
KOIN asked Haaland what wildfire-related changes her department will be advocating for in 2022. She said she’s looking forward to the benefits that will come from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. She said the law has many funding opportunities to help fight the effects of climate change.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act also provided funding to address water infrastructure needs on Native American Reservations in the U.S., including the Warm Springs Reservation in Oregon.
“We look forward to making sure that we’re consulting with tribes and yes, getting the money out the door as soon as possible,” Haaland said.
She said Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Bryan Newland has had continued consultations with tribes about distributing the funding.
Haaland also said the Department of the Interior and the Department of Commerce are working together to make broadband internet access available for all tribal communities.
Haaland’s office also highlighted several other achievements it had in 2021, including investing more than $1.6 billion from the Great American Outdoors Act to address deferred maintenance projects on public lands and at Bureau of Indian Education schools, taking steps to improve Tribes’ ability to establish and consolidate their homelands and pursue economic development opportunities, and enhancing access to public lands through strategic acquisitions from willing landowners.