A Year of Historic Investments: Interior’s Successful 2023


From extreme heat and devastating wildfires to persistent drought and major flooding, communities and ecosystems across the United States are facing the impacts of the climate crisis. Urban, rural and Tribal communities are confronting the effects of air and water pollution, aging infrastructure, and extreme weather events, while fish, wildlife and their habitats are experiencing the dual crises of biodiversity and nature loss. 

Recognizing the urgency of these crises, the Department of the Interior leveraged new, historic resources in 2023 – provided through President Biden’s Investing in America agenda – to upgrade infrastructure, protect communities, create jobs, and help ensure that future generations can enjoy the same access to the public lands and waters that we enjoy today. The Department took historic steps to develop a robust clean energy economy, advance scientific innovation, conserve and protect our public lands and waters, and uphold our trust and treaty obligations to Indigenous communities.  

At every step of the way, the Department made progress on these goals with broad engagement, including with Tribal Nations, states, territories, local officials, agricultural, forest and private landowners, environmental justice advocates, and others to identify strategies and goals that reflect the priorities of all communities. 

Conserving, Restoring, and Protecting Lands and Waters 

Sunset at White Sands National Park.

Because nature is essential to the health, well-being, and prosperity of every community, the Department this year worked to expand access to and conserve the nation’s national parks, wildlife refuges, recreation lands, and other outdoor spaces through initiatives like America the Beautiful and the Great American Outdoors Act.

This year, the Department launched a new restoration and resilience framework to steward over $2 billion in investments from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act to restore the nation’s lands and waters.  

Through this framework, the Department is working to address climate change impacts and protect essential ecosystems, including through restoring the Klamath Basin, salt marshes and core sage brush areas; supporting habitat for salmon, bison and Hawaiian forest birds that hold cultural, subsistence and ecosystem significance; and enhancing communities’ quality of life in Appalachia by improving outdoor spaces and addressing legacy pollution.

At the heart of America the Beautiful is the work to advance conservation efforts that are locally led, collaborative and inclusive, honor Tribal sovereignty, and follow the science.  

In November, the Department joined the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and public-and private-sector partners in announcing $141.3 million in grants through the America the Beautiful Challenge (ATBC). Approximately 40 percent of 2023 grants and funding will support projects implemented by Indigenous communities, representing an unprecedented level of funding dedicated to Tribally led projects for a single grant program at NFWF.

Strengthening Indigenous Communities

Secretary Haaland sits in front of a sign that reads "Tribal Nations Summit"

Honoring government-to-government relationships with Tribes and upholding our trust and treaty responsibilities are paramount to the mission at the Interior Department. At the core of that effort is increased and intentional consultation, collaboration and co-stewardship with Tribal Nations.

With new resources through the President’s Investing in America agenda, this year the Department’s Bureau of Indian Affairs deployed record investments to provide upgraded wastewater and sanitation systems, clean drinking water, and reliable and affordable electricity, while creating good paying jobs in Tribal communities.  

Through the Investing in America agenda, we are dedicating the most funding in history to support Tribes most severely impacted by climate change with voluntary relocation, planning and adaptation. The Department also took historic steps to increase Tribal co-stewardship of lands and waters through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, and Bureau of Land Management, incorporate Indigenous Knowledge into the Department’s work, and preserve and protect sacred sites around the country.    

Guided by these foundational goals, this year the Department helped to finalize an historic agreement that will support Tribally led efforts to restore healthy and abundant salmon populations in the Upper Columbia River Basin and safeguard cultural and spiritual practices in the region. This agreement will support work to honor federal commitments to Tribal Nations, deliver affordable and reliable clean power, and meet the many needs of stakeholders across the region.

These are just a few of the many steps that the Department is taking to strengthen the resilience of Indigenous communities and get resources into the hands of Tribal communities who know best how to care for their people.

Strengthening Western Resilience in the Face of Drought 

Lake Mead surrounded by rocks that indicate the water levels.

As communities across the West experience severe drought conditions, the Department is bringing every tool and resource to bear to minimize the impacts of the drought and develop long-term plans to facilitate conservation and economic growth, because no community should be left behind.  

This year, we took significant measures to protect the Colorado River Basin from historically low water levels – a resource on which seven states, 30 Tribes, and 40 million people rely. By working with states, Tribes, irrigators, and other stakeholders, the Department staved off the immediate possibility of the Colorado River System’s reservoirs falling to critically low elevations that would threaten water deliveries and power production. We are also working on developing the next set of guidelines that will govern the Colorado River for the next decade and beyond.  

The President’s Investing in America agenda provides $12 billion nationwide to the Bureau of Reclamation to revitalize aging water systems, advance innovative water reuse methods and connect rural and disadvantaged communities to clean-reliable, drinking water supplies, many of whom have been waiting decades for clean water to flow from their taps. The Department is also working to ensure that other drought-stricken Basins across the West are receiving the resources and support they need to mitigate the impacts of drought and extreme heat.  

Investing in Wildland Fire Preparedness and Resilience 

A firefighter works on a prescribed fire at sunset in southern Florida. Photo by NPS.

As climate change drives longer-lasting, more intense and more destructive wildfires across the country, the Department is using resources from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to support the federal wildland firefighting workforce and increase the resilience of lands that are under the most direct threat.  

This year, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Department’s Office of Wildland Fire launched the development of a joint behavioral health program for wildland firefighters.  

To more effectively prepare for and respond to wildland fires, the Biden-Harris administration’s Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission, co-chaired by Interior, released a report with a comprehensive set of recommendations outlining strategies to chart a new path for collaborative wildland fire management – a path that responds to the growing challenge of wildland fire that the climate crisis exacerbates.  

Cleaning Up Legacy Pollution and Toxic Sites 

Pump jack in Guadalupe Mountains National Park.

Through the President’s Investing in America agenda, the Department is implementing the largest investment in tackling legacy pollution in American history.  

Millions of Americans live less than one mile from a toxic abandoned coal mine or orphaned oil and gas well. Not only are these sites environmental hazards, but they also jeopardize public health and safety, increase flood risks, and can cause sinkholes that harm neighborhoods, roadways and wildlife.  

With historic new resources, states, Tribes and federal land managers have remediated over 6,000 orphaned oil and gas wells and reclaimed hundreds of abandoned mines – creating jobs and revitalizing local economies in the process.  

All of this work, implemented by the Office of Service Mining Reclamation and Enforcement and the Department’s new Orphaned Well Program Office, also advances President Biden’s Justice40 initiative, which aims to address current and historic environmental injustices and ensure accountability moving forward.

Developing a Robust Clean Energy Economy 

The Department made significant progress in 2023 to stand up clean energy projects on public lands and establish a robust offshore wind energy program, which will create good-paying union jobs, lower consumers’ energy costs, and help the transition to a decarbonized economy.    

This year, the Department approved four offshore wind projects, and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management approved the Construction and Operation Plan for two, totaling nearly 6.5 gigawatts. The bureau also issued draft environmental reviews for three new projects and initiated the environmental review of another that, if approved, will help the administration reach its goal of deploying 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy capacity by 2030. While this momentum continues, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement stood up a regulatory and enforcement program for the new offshore industry this year.

In 2023, the Bureau of Land Management approved 10 wind, solar and geothermal projects that, when built, will power millions of homes across the West. The Administration also made significant progress for key transmission lines that cross federally managed lands, and celebrated the groundbreakings of the TransWest Express Transmission Project, Ten West Link, and the SunZia Transmission Project.  

The BLM is currently processing about 38 utility-scale onshore clean energy projects proposed on public lands, including solar, wind and geothermal projects, as well as interconnected gen-tie lines that are vital to clean energy projects proposed on non-federal land. These projects have the combined potential to add over 22,578 megawatts of renewable energy to the western electric grid.  

Supporting U.S. Territories with Infrastructure Investments 

Island areas surrounded by cloudy skies.

The U.S. Territories are an integral part of the fabric of America. The Department is working closely with our territorial partners to ensure investments from the Biden-Harris administration make the largest impact and reach as many communities as possible.  

To help in this endeavor, this year the Department waived all local cost-sharing requirements for the U.S. territories of American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and U.S. Virgin Islands for all Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act grants.  

This initiative removes financial barriers as the work continues to safeguard ecosystems, revitalize domestic water supplies, and advance climate resilience in the territories.  

This builds on other efforts to ensure that U.S. territories are part of any climate solution, and that the COMPACT agreements with Freely Associated States partners are fully enacted and funded by Congress.

Continued Progress into 2024

Climate change is transforming where and how we live and presents growing challenges to human health and quality of life, the economy, and the natural systems that support us. The Interior Department and its offices and bureaus will continue to leverage new and historic resources to help prepare and address this crisis, using the best available science from the U.S. Geological Survey and across our teams. We are working to build a modern, resilient climate infrastructure and clean energy future that will create millions of good-paying union jobs, while protecting the communities, natural, and cultural resources on which we all rely.  

Here’s to continued progress in 2024!