Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland and President Joe Biden promised to expand the protections of Bears Ears and the Grand Staircase national monuments. We are still waiting, and with the current allowances of the oil and gas industry, it seems we will now wait even longer. My ancestors were brutalized and maimed. Our communities carry the burden of generations of abuse, discrimination, and pain. Trust in our government doesn’t come easy given the history of how the government has treated us. I was and continue to be hopeful because President Biden and the congressional delegation appointed Congresswoman Haaland as Secretary of the Interior.
Our families, communities, and allies cheered on to watch one of our leaders in one of our federal administration’s essential roles. She carries the generational burden that we all do, a strong woman who overcame obstacles set before us to become the voice of our people, history, and future.
It seems like politics are at play. She has the power to restore our lands, and the administration has faltered. Last month, she allowed the oil and gas program to continue on our public lands without any reforms. We support her and her leadership but want better for our lands and our people. We call on the administration to support Secretary Haaland and her promise for reforms and protection of our land.
The President was just in Colorado speaking about the climate crisis. The Secretary of the Interior will come to Colorado to tout the “America the Beautiful” plan at the Salazar Center at the end of September. The “America the Beautiful” plan asks for Americans to join in pursuit of a goal of conserving at least 30% of our lands and waters by 2030. This plan seems impossible for our country when our leaders fail to put their foot down and restrict oil and gas companies from manipulating the system and damaging our land to line their pockets with billions of dollars.
Secretary Haaland must act in the spirit of our ancestors and transform how the government and our tribal nations work together to protect our climate and our land. Protection of Bears Ears and Grand Escalante must be restored in the short term and other sacred lands in the long
term. Her appointment is history making, and we hope to see history-making decisions coming from her and the administration.
2030 is only nine years away, and the oil and gas companies are working against the goals of the “America the Beautiful” plan, contributing to the climate emergency. Our planet does not have time for the politics to play out, we need action by Secretary Haaland and President Biden now.
Shannon Francis is the executive director of Spirit of the Sun, an Indigenous nonprofit working to empower Native communities, one youth at a time.
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