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Senators Should Seek Commitments from Interior Secretary Nominee Bernhardt

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Senators should seek key commitments from Interior Secretary Nominee David Bernhardt to ensure he will steward and safeguard our wildlife, public lands, clean water and air, and natural resources for generations to come. Bernhardt’s nomination will go before the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee this week.

“Secretaries of the Interior have a sacred obligation to preserve and protect our incredible wildlife, public lands, and natural resources for future generations,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “David Bernhardt’s confirmation hearing this week offers the American people an opportunity to hear firsthand from the nominee on how he will restore balance to the Department’s actions, including prioritizing the recovery of the thousands of vulnerable wildlife species, protecting treasured landscapes across the nation, upholding Tribal obligations and responsibilities, preventing oil spills off our coasts, and restoring robust public input into decision-making. We urge senators from both sides of the aisle to attend this week’s hearing and ask serious questions about the stewardship of the public lands, waters, and wildlife that are the birthright of all Americans .”

O’Mara encouraged Senators to ask a series of questions on topics including:

Energy Dominance

  • The Department’s has focused heavily on its energy dominance agenda. Beyond migration corridors and expanding hunting/fishing access, what are your conservation priorities? Can the Department’s pursuit of unfettered oil and gas development be reconciled with your recent commitment in a Wall Street Journal interview to pursue “balance”?
  • Will the Department of the Interior respect the wishes of every single Governor along the East Coast and West Coast, except Alaska, who, along with local businesses, residents, and conservation groups, have requested that all East Coast and West Coast states be withdrawn from its imminent 2019-2024 outer continental shelf drilling plan?
  • How does the Department of the Interior square its lease offering for oil and gas develop in key migration corridors for mule deer, pronghorn, and elk, with its commitment to conserve such corridors as established through recent Secretary’s Orders? 
  • Will you commit to re-engaging the public in decision-making processes around oil and gas?

Wildlife Conservation

  • Despite more than one-third of all species at-risk or vulnerable to potential extinction in the decades ahead, the Department proposed significant reductions or eliminations in key programs that spur collaborative, on-the-ground conservation (State Fish and Wildlife Grants, Cooperative Endangered Species Fund, Cooperative Research Units, Cooperative Landscape Conservation) for its FY20 budget. Will you commit the Department to help secure funding for collaborative conservation efforts, including the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act?
  • Will you commit to reversing the Department’s position on compensatory mitigation — which is critical to ensuring companies make taxpayers whole when they damage public lands?
  • How will you ensure all of the Department’s Migratory Bird Treaty Act regulations and policies comply with the plain language of that law to prohibit killing and harm to migratory birds unless permitted by regulation?
  • The Department of the Interior is proposing a new, less restrictive path for implementing the Endangered Species Act, especially for “threatened” species. How will you ensure this approach does not make it less likely species recovery goals are achieved? 

Public Lands Conservation & Tribes

  • Will the Department affirm its commitment to the current mining withdrawal around the Grand Canyon and support a permanent withdrawal as currently proposed by Congress? And how will the Department protect Native American and other Western communities from the toxic effects of uranium mining?
  • Will the Department of the Interior commit to cooperating with congressional inquiries and fact-finding around massive reductions to Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument?
  • Will the Department of the Interior commit to no further reductions or elimination of national monuments? 

O’Mara recently wrote a column for the Washington Post about the lessons of Zinke’s tenure and his legacy at the Interior Department.

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