This Week at Interior May 28, 2021


This Week, at Interior  

The Nation marks Memorial Day this Monday. In a video message, Secretary Haaland asked Americans to take a moment to reflect on those who gave their lives so all of us can live in a country that values democracy, as we strive to build a more perfect union. She saluted all who’ve served and sacrificed for the country, especially those whose stories have not always been told. 

Throughout history, women have proudly served as nurses, medics, communication specialists, and air traffic controllers who serve in combat zones. Too often, these heroes are not given the recognition they deserve. At the Department of the Interior, we are determined to tell everyone’s story in America through opportunities on public lands in all communities. We have a responsibility to lift up these stories to ensure that their sacrifices are never forgotten. 

Memorial Day weekend is also the traditional first great getaway of the summer vacation season. This year as vaccinations increase and COVID restrictions begin to lift, millions of Americans will return to the great outdoors. Visitors to our public lands should remember to recreate responsibly, observe restrictions still in place, to come prepared, be patient and have a plan B if your designated area is crowded.  

Interior joined the Defense Department and California state officials this week to announce that offshore wind in the Pacific is moving closer to reality. Potential sites off the central and northern coasts of California could bring up to 4.6 gigawatts of clean energy to the grid. That’s enough to power 1.6 million homes. It’s another milestone toward the Biden-Harris administration’s goal to deploy 30 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030. Secretary Haaland said the industry has the potential to create tens of thousands of good-paying union jobs across the nation, while also combating the negative effects of climate change. 

Public lands visitors this year should also be mindful of the extreme risk of human-caused wildfires, a risk brought on by record-breaking drought conditions in the west. Almost ninety-percent of western states are experiencing some degree of drought. This week Senior Counselor to the Secretary Liz Klein testified before the House Subcommittee on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife on Interior’s work, alongside state and Tribal partners, on how Interior will manage and mitigate those unprecedented drought conditions brought on by climate change. 

The changing climate is making life hard for the lesser prairie chicken. The Fish and Wildlife Service this week proposed listing two different populations of the bird under the Endangered Species Act. Lesser prairie chickens currently occupy a five-state range that includes Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado. They face a number of threats as increasing heat and dry conditions threaten their sagebrush ecosystem.  

The U.S. Geological Survey’s Alaska Volcano Observatory reported the brief eruption of the Great Sitkin Volcano in the Aleutian Islands this week. This dramatic picture shows the volcano just moments after the eruption began around 9pm local time Tuesday, sending an ash cloud as high as 15,000 feet above sea level. That triggered a  Code Red alert for several hours for any aviators flying in the area. Great Sitkin has erupted at least eight times in the past 250 years, most notably back in 1974. Great Sitkin Island is part of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. 

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin joined senior Interior officials for a ceremonial groundbreaking at the Korean War Veterans Memorial this week. Several new additions are already under construction at the memorial, including the Wall of Remembrance...that wall will feature the names of the more than 36,000 Americans and more than 7000 Korean augmentees to the U.S. Army, who gave their lives during the war. The memorial will remain open during the construction, but some areas are closed off. 

And our social media Picture of the Week, orange paintbrush wildflowers and blooming sage amid the rolling hills at Pine Forest Range Wilderness in Nevada. Managed by BLM, the Pine Forest Range is a rare and exceptional area of abundant streams and clear, cold subalpine lakes... the spectacular scenery and  outstanding recreational opportunities draw thousands of visitors every year. 

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That’s This Week, at Interior 

This Week: As the nation marks Memorial Day, Secretary Haaland asks Americans to take a moment to reflect on those who gave their lives to protect our democracy; as millions get ready to return to the great outdoors this summer, public lands visitors are reminded to have a plan and act responsibly; offshore wind energy in the Pacific moves closer to reality; Interior delivered testimony on Capitol Hill this week as the Administration looks to mitigate and manage the effects of the historic western drought; with changing climate threatening the lesser prairie chicken's habitat, the Fish and Wildlife Service recommends its listing under the Endangered Species Act; the eruption of a volcano in Alaska sends tons of ash into the atmosphere; a new addition to the Korean War Veterans Memorial will honor the service and sacrifice of those who fought and died in that conflict; and our social media Picture of the Week blooms with color!