We Asked Secretary Deb Haaland Questions About National Park Week and She Answered


Secretary Haaland during a visit to Yellowstone National Park in 2019.
Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland is a big fan of the national parks system. In honor of National Park Week, she shared her experiences and favorite memories of past visits to national parks and historic sites, her role at Interior, and her vision for how we can all be great stewards of our public lands. 

1. As Secretary of the Interior, what role do you and the Department play in protecting our national parks?

It’s my job to carry out the President’s priorities for our national parks, which is an incredible honor. One of the most important roles I play is supporting the talented career employees at the National Park Service – I’m in awe of the jobs they do to keep visitors safe and healthy during this pandemic, study the plants and animals that live in our parks, and ensure we all have those beautiful, meaningful places for future generations. 

2. What is an interesting fact about our national parks that people might not know? 

The National Park System is huge – not only does it include the beautiful outdoor spaces that everyone knows and loves, but also sites that tell the story of our country. Places like Chaco Culture National Historical Park, Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park, Gettysburg National Military Park, Manzanar National Historic Site, Stonewall National Monument, and the hospitals that Cesar Chavez used to organize the farmworkers movement at Cesar E. Chavez National Monument.  

3. You have visited a few national parks during your time in public service, do you have a particular favorite?

I don’t think I could choose a favorite because each one is so unique, and I haven’t been to them all … yet. Some of my favorite memories visiting national parks and monuments is when my child Somáh and I would hike together. It was my way of showing them how important nature is to sustain us both physically, but also spiritually.

4. Is there any national park, monument, or historic site that you are looking forward to visiting? 

I have a National Park Passport and it’s my goal to visit as many national parks, monuments, and historic sites as I can! During one of my trips, I sat on a plane next to a young girl and her grandmother, and I was pleased to learn that she had her National Park Passport and had already visited more than 100. I was so impressed.

5. What do you wish young people knew about our National Park System?

National parks are for everyone and they’re everywhere – even in urban areas. We all have a right to visit and enjoy them. At Interior we’re making it a priority to make parks more accessible for everyone no matter where they live, their ability, access to resources, or background. I encourage every kid, in every neighborhood, to search for parks near them and then put their phones away and get outside. 

6. What are your backpack essentials when you are hiking?

You don’t need much to enjoy a short hike, so I lace up my tennis shoes and make sure to bring my mask, plenty of water, and some snacks. 

7. What is a funny or memorable experience from a visit to a national park?

I always think of my dad when I think of memories in the outdoors. One summer when we were kids, we were ready to just hang out and enjoy the summer – but not my dad. He was always taking us to places with names like “Great Dismal Swamp.” We rowed boats and at the time I remember being miserable, but now my brother, sisters and I laugh about it. It’s a great memory.  

8. How can the public help preserve the National Park System? 

We all should respect our public lands, so when you’re enjoying national parks be sure whatever you bring with you also goes back out with you. Nothing says you care more than leaving a place better than you found it.
In my everyday life, I show my respect for our natural places by carrying a reusable water bottle everywhere I go and avoiding single use plastics because those things could end up in our national parks, ocean, and other natural spaces.