Heinrich calls for 'modern vision' on lands management

By:  Jennifer Yachnin

New Mexico Sen. Martin Heinrich (D) is calling on the Biden administration to "reorient the driving missions" of public land management agencies toward addressing climate change and away from activities like extractive industry and timber harvesting.

Heinrich, who serves on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, made the remarks Friday during a virtual forum broadcast by the Outdoor Industry Association.

Echoing comments he first made ahead of the November elections, Heinrich said that the Interior Department and the Agriculture Department's Forest Service must reevaluate their multiuse mandates — which include energy development, livestock grazing and recreation — to focus on climate change policies (Greenwire, Oct. 9, 2020).

"We also have a real opportunity under the leadership of this new administration to reorient the driving missions of our federal land management agencies," Heinrich said in his opening remarks to the panel, titled, "Thriving People, Thriving Planet and Thriving Business: Biden, Congress and the Outdoor Rec Economy."

"We need a modern vision for public land management that is rooted in conservation and in solving the climate crisis," he continued.

"Americans value our public lands for what they provide us in terms of outdoor recreation and clean water, environmental justice, climate solutions, the preservation of our wildlife, and rural economic development. And those are not always the benefits that our federal land managers and these agencies have prioritized. I think we need a reset there."

Heinrich went on to argue that the value of public lands should not be based "simply in barrels or board feet," referring to extractive industry and timber harvesting.

"The mission of our public land management agencies should be focused on serving the American public and conserving the common lands and waters that we all love," added Heinrich, who said he is crafting legislation to establish a "national recreation plan" to be used by both Interior and the Forest Service.

"We're going to make every bill a climate bill and every agency a climate agency," Heinrich said.

Heinrich also praised his fellow New Mexican, Democratic Rep. Deb Haaland, as President Biden's pick to helm the Interior Department. Her confirmation hearing has yet to be scheduled.

The senator's comments came in the wake of acting Interior Secretary Scott de la Vega's order suspending new fossil fuel leasing and permitting on federal land and waters (Greenwire, Jan. 21).