Murkowski Announces Support for Interior Secretary Nominee Haaland

During a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee markup, U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) today announced that she will support the nomination of Representative Deb Haaland to serve as Secretary of the Department of the Interior.

ENR Hearing Haaland - 03.04.21

Click here for video of Senator Murkowski.

“The Department of the Interior – and thus the Secretary who leads it – both play an outsized role in our state. Alaska has more federal lands, more mineral resources, and more natural hazards than any other state. We are set apart by unique laws and frameworks that Congress enacted and that Presidents signed, whether our Statehood Act or ANCSA or ANILCA. We are an Arctic nation because of Alaska. And we are a diverse state, with many indigenous peoples and cultures who have lived there since, as they say, time immemorial. We are a state that is just different. 

“I seek to ensure every nominee who comes before us understands that. I have spent a considerable amount of time trying to educate others about Alaska and our unique needs and our unique peoples. And I spent a considerable amount of time with Representative Haaland reiterating what is at stake for us.

“Alaska’s prosperity is directly linked to decisions made by Interior – whether through their trust responsibilities, their authority over responsible resource development, or their monitoring of hazards and other threats.

“I’ve had two separate meetings with Representative Haaland that lasted for more than an hour each.  I participated in both days of her nomination hearing, asking many questions, and have reviewed the answers she provided to all of our members. I’ve also spent considerable time listening to Alaskans’ views on her nomination. They are paying attention to this nomination.

“I’ve heard two sentiments over and over again. The first is that many Alaskans – Alaska Natives in particular – are enormously proud to have a Native American nominated to this position. It is truly a historic nomination and they believe Alaska Native issues can be elevated to one of the highest levels of government.

“The second concern that I’m hearing is that many Alaskans are concerned about the agendas Representative Haaland will seek to implement on her own and on behalf of the White House. They are concerned by her opposition to resource development on public lands, including her opposition to key projects in Alaska and her questioning of the vital role that Alaska Native Corporations serve in our communities.

“Weighing on top of that is my experience from the Obama administration, when I voted for a Secretary who promised to be a good partner for Alaska, but proved to be anything but that after confirmation.

“So I struggled with this vote.  How to reconcile a historic nomination with my concerns about an individual’s – and an administration’s – conception of what Alaska’s future should be. 

“I believe Representative Haaland’s heart is there for Native peoples and all who treasure our public lands. I don’t believe that is the extent of Interior’s mission, but she has also told us that she recognizes that if confirmed, she will be serving in a different capacity. She told me that she knows she will need to represent every Alaskan, including those who know how to responsibly develop our lands. And she committed to me that she will ‘make sure that we are doing all we can to ensure that your constituents have the opportunities that they need.’

“Given the early days of this administration, I have my doubts about whether that will be the case. But I have decided to support this nomination today, to support the first Native American who would hold this position, and with the expectation that Representative Haaland will be true to her word—not just on matters relating to Native peoples, but also responsible resource development and every other issue.

“I also fully anticipate that she will have a strong management team in place with people who understand the value of resource development from public lands. She needs this—we need this—within the Department of Interior.

“I am going to place my trust in Representative Haaland and her team, despite some very real misgivings.  And Representative Haaland, if you are listening, know that I intend to work with you because I want you to be successful and need you to be successful, but I am also going to hold you to your commitments to ensure that Alaska is allowed to prosper.”