New Mexico Sen. Martin Heinrich has a few recommendations for the next denizen of the White House: It’s time to overhaul the Interior Department and how the nation manages its public lands.
The Democrat — who is widely viewed as a potential pick for Interior secretary should Democratic nominee Joe Biden defeat President Trump next month — outlined his vision yesterday during an event hosted by the Outdoor Industry Association.
Heinrich called for a “national outdoor recreation plan” and described an Interior agency focused more on climate change than on extractive industry.
“We need a presidential administration to have a modern vision for public land management that’s really rooted in conservation and solving the climate crisis and very aware of the needs of all our recreation partners,” Heinrich said during the event, promoted as “The 2020 Election and Beyond: What’s at stake for the outdoor recreation economy? A conversation with Senator Martin Heinrich.”
The New Mexico lawmaker lamented that both Interior and the Forest Service continue to operate under “foundational laws” created to emphasize beef production, timber harvesting or ore extraction, arguing the modern economy “needs very different things.”
“Given the desire of Americans for outdoor recreation, environmental justice, climate solutions, the preservation of biodiversity, clean water and rural economic development, we really need to reorientate the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Forest Service toward those objectives,” he added. “The mission of public land management should really be focused on serving the American public and safeguarding the values that deliver all of those public benefits.”
While Heinrich said his proposed overhaul of Interior and the Forest Service, which operates under the Department of Agriculture, could be largely achieved via the executive branch, he also envisions congressional involvement.
“I think it’s an enormous opportunity,” Heinrich said. “I certainly wouldn’t wait until legislation passes to work on really orienting those two agencies toward outdoor recreation, but at the same time I do think it’s important that we have some legislative vehicles that also create bipartisan buy-in.”
Heinrich also revealed he is drafting legislation to address equity in outdoor recreation, praising a program in his home state as an example of what he would like to pursue.
“We have real work ahead of us to make sure that every single American, regardless of their race or their ZIP code or the size of their wallet, can find the same sense of belonging in our public lands and outdoor spaces,” Heinrich said.
He later added: “We are in conversations right now with a whole range of groups to figure out what that would look like and to draft legislation to do just that.”
Climate is everywhere
Heinrich noted he’d like to see any future Democratic administration aggressively address climate change policy.
“If there’s one thing this administration has taught us, is that an executive administration really does have power,” Heinrich said.
“While some of their decisions certainly haven’t withstood the court system, they were not afraid to make changes,” he added. “I