This Week at Interior February 17, 2023


This Week at Interior 

Secretary Haaland visited Australia this week, highlighting the importance of Indigenous Knowledge, collaborative conservation and international partnerships to inform the global effort to fight the climate crisis. She was joined by Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Bryan Newland and Assistant Secretary for Insular and International Affairs Carmen Cantor. The trip showcased the interconnectedness of the Interior Department’s mission and priorities with those of our international counterparts, including the U.S. relationship with key allies in the Indo-Pacific region. 

Deputy Secretary Tommy Beaudreau this week participated in the President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. The Deputy Secretary highlighted the progress that Interior has made to address the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Peoples crisis since Secretary Haaland established the Missing and Murdered Unit two years ago. 

To date the MMU has investigated 661 Missing and Murdered Person cases, closed 203 of those cases, and resolved 7 murder cases in particular. The Department of the Interior, alongside DOJ, is continuing to implement the Not Invisible Act Commission. This commission is drafting recommendations to combat the MMIP crisis through the formation of six subcommittees. Each of these subcommittees focuses on specific public safety and justice issues, including addressing human trafficking. 

Interior this week announced a $728 million investment to deliver clean, reliable drinking water to rural and Tribal communities, support water conservation in the Upper Colorado River Basin, and complete projects to improve water supply reliability. This historic funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Inflation Reduction Act, and the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023, supplements unprecedented investments to protect the stability and sustainability of the Colorado River System now and into the future. 

The Biden-Harris administration’s Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission released a report this week, outlining its strategy to meet aerial firefighting equipment needs through 2030. The report reexamines existing approaches to aviation fleet procurement, mobilization, composition and quantity, and seeks to set aviation management on a new trajectory for the next decade and beyond. 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to remove the wood stork from the federal list of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. Wood storks are the only species of stork breeding in the United States, and once numbered fewer than 5,000 nesting pairs; today that number has doubled. The announcement comes as the Endangered Species Act turns 50 years old in 2023. 

Fish and Wildlife Service Director Martha Williams visited Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge in Louisiana to highlight Bipartisan Infrastructure Law investments to remediate orphaned oil and gas wells in the refuge. The Infrastructure Law has provided $33 million in funding so far to close toxic sites in national parks, wildlife refuges and on other public lands.  

National Park Service Director Chuck Sams joined local, state and federal partners at the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center to announce the discovery of a home where enslaved people lived on the Thompson Farm, the birthplace of Harriet Tubman. Beneath layers of soil, archaeologists found the foundation of a substantial brick building -- and artifacts that were found will be displayed in the future. The announcement underscores Interior’s commitment to preserving historic sites and telling the complete story of America.  

The U.S. Geological Survey is making $5 million in grants available under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to collect data on mine waste. Some critical minerals are known to occur alongside more commonly mined minerals. Because of this, mine-waste sites are now being revisited to see if the waste has potential for critical minerals, which are an essential piece of the clean energy future. 

And our social media Picture of the Week, one of the world's great natural wonders — the glistening dunes of New Mexico's White Sands National Park. Rising from the heart of the Tularosa Basin, the great wave-like gypsum dunes cover nearly 300 square miles of desert, and in this amazing image, create a dreamlike, other-worldly landscape. 

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This Week: Secretary Haaland visits Australia to showcase the interconnectedness of Interior’s mission with those of our international counterparts; Deputy Secretary Beaudreau highlights the progress made to address the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Peoples crisis; Interior announces major investments in water conservation and reliability in the Upper Colorado River Basin; the Biden-Harris administration outlines its strategy to meet aerial firefighting equipment needs; a once-threatened bird is poised for a major comeback; we'll tell you how Bipartisan Infrastructure Law investments are remediating orphaned oil and gas wells on wildlife refuges; archaeologists find artifacts and the foundation of a substantial brick building at the birthplace of Harriet Tubman; USGS evaluates mine waste as a potential source of critical minerals; and we'll take you to one of the world's great natural wonders in our social media Picture of the Week!