This Week at Interior June 16, 2023


Hi, I’m Rob Thieler at the Woods Hole Coastal Marine Science Center at the U.S. Geological Survey, and you’re watching This Week at Interior. 

This Week at Interior 

The Supreme Court this week upheld the Indian Child Welfare Act, a 1978 law that was passed to protect Indigenous children, keep families together, and safeguard the future of Tribal Nations following centuries of policies that promoted the forced removal of Indigenous children from their families and communities. Secretary Haaland celebrated the ruling, saying in part that the “decision is a welcome affirmation across Indian Country of what presidents and congressional majorities on both sides of the aisle have recognized for the past four decades.” 

Secretary Haaland visited Massachusetts and Rhode Island this week, where she highlighted how the President’s Investing in America agenda is restoring our nation’s lands and waters and expanding outdoor recreation access. In Massachusetts, she toured the High Street dam removal project in Bridgewater, where a $1.5 million investment from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will restore the river and support aquatic connectivity. In Rhode Island she visited the Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park, celebrating its establishment as a National Park Service unit. During her visit to both states she met with Tribal leaders, discussing a broad range of issues including economic development, the impacts of climate change, and the sustainable development of offshore wind. 

Secretary Haaland and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack outlined their vision and goals this week when it comes to managing wildland fires. The agencies plan to have more than 17,000 wildland firefighters on board by the end of this year to help support communities increasingly impacted by wildfires. Air resources, heavy equipment and other support personnel also are ready to respond as wildfire activity increases. The President’s fiscal year 2024 budget proposal would enable the departments to continue providing the country’s federal wildland fire workforce with improved and well-deserved benefits. 

Meanwhile as wildfires continue to burn in Canada, additional Interior and USDA firefighters and resources are on the way to assist with ongoing wildfire suppression efforts. Since May, more than 800 U.S. firefighters have traveled to provide support in Canada, including 6 Incident Management Teams and 34 Interagency Hotshot Crews. With increased fire activity across the provinces, multiple requests for resources from the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre are being filled for Alberta, British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Ontario, and Quebec - that includes hand crews, incident management teams, fireline leadership positions, and various aviation assets. 

The Bureau of Land Management this week announced a proposed update of its renewable energy regulations to promote the development of solar and wind energy on public lands. The proposed rule would reduce development fees nationwide, and facilitate responsible development consistent with the administration’s efforts to permit 25 gigawatts of clean energy on public lands by 2025, and to transition to 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2035.  

The Bureau of Reclamation is taking the first steps to develop new operating guidelines to protect the Colorado River after the current guidelines expire in 2026. The public process will gather feedback for the next set of operating guidelines, including new strategies that take into account the current and projected hydrology of the Colorado River Basin.  

Nearly $580 million went out from Interior this week to more than 1,900 local communities nationwide. The funds are known as PILT, or Payment in Lieu of Taxes. That's money that Interior reimburses local jurisdictions, compensating them for the non-taxable federal lands within their boundaries. PILT payments help local governments carry out vital services, everything from firefighting and police protection to public school and road construction. 

The National Park Service welcomed America's newest citizens this week, as more than 200 people took their oaths of citizenship at Mount Rushmore National Monument. 

And our social media Picture of the Week comes from Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in southwest Oklahoma. The refuge is renowned for its impressive herds of bison, longhorn and Rocky Mountain elk -- it also provides excellent recreational activities such as fishing, bird watching, wildlife photography, hiking, camping and kayaking. 

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That's This Week at Interior. 

This Week: The Supreme Court upholds the Indian Child Welfare Act; Secretary Haaland highlights the President’s Investing in America agenda in Massachusetts and Rhode Island; Interior and USDA issue a joint memorandum on fighting wildfires; U.S. firefighters and equipment head north to assist as wildfires rage in Canada; the Bureau of Land Management proposes a new plan for renewable energy development on public lands; new guidelines are on the way to build resilience in the Colorado River basin; nearly $580 million is distributed to 1,900 communities nationwide; the National Park Service welcomes America's newest citizens at Mount Rushmore; and we head to Oklahoma for our social media Picture of the Week!