Deb Haaland, President Biden’s pick for Interior Secretary, has a track record of fierce advocacy for animals

By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson

By on February 23, 2021 with 5 Comments

Rep. Deb Haaland, President Biden’s nominee to lead the Department of the Interior, has a proven track record of working on the side of animals. Humane Society Legislative Fund endorsed her history-making run for the U.S. House in 2018, and she has since worked swiftly to not only move the ball forward for several key animal protection issues but also to oppose some of the worst decisions made by the Department of the Interior under President Trump. Her advocacy for animals earned her a perfect score of 100 on HSLF’s 2020 Humane Scorecard.

As her Senate confirmation process begins today, we look forward to a return to U.S. Interior policy that protects our most vulnerable wildlife, both here in the United States and around the world.

Under Haaland’s predecessors—Ryan Zinke and then David Bernhardt—the Department of the Interior, in many instances, set the clock back on progress made for wildlife, especially imperiled species, although they did attempt to tackle the challenges of managing wild horses and burros on federal lands. Both Zinke and Bernhardt showed a distinct preference for playing into the hands of trophy hunting interests and some of their worst decisions included dangerous changes to dismantle the Endangered Species Act, stripping ESA protections for wolves, and reinstating cruel hunting practices on national preserves in Alaska.

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

In contrast, Rep. Haaland has spent her last two years, as chair of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, striving to protect wildlife by pushing for an increase in the use of fertility control to manage wild horses and burros, pushing to create a transparent and science-based permit system for the import of trophies of imperiled animal species, and ensuring that protections for species on the brink of extinction are restored.

Rep. Haaland was a cosponsor of a House bill that would have stopped some of the most dangerous changes to the ESA from taking effect. She signed on to a letter opposing the delisting of gray wolves. And she cosponsored a bill, Conserving Ecosystems by Ceasing the Importation of Large Animal Trophies (CECIL) Act, which would have amended the Endangered Species Act to prohibit import and export of any species listed or proposed to be listed as a threated or endangered species.

Among her many achievements for animals, she has:

  • Led the Tribal Heritage and Grizzly Bear Protection Act with Representative Grijalva.
  • Cosponsored the Extinction Prevention Act of 2019 to provide financial assistance for the conservation of key endangered species.
  • Signed member letters to House appropriations leadership requesting increased funding for ESA implementation in FY20 and FY21.
  • Cosponsored the Preventing Future Pandemics Act which would, in part, end commercial wildlife markets and mobilize 50 new United States Fish and Wildlife Service attaches to combat wildlife trafficking.
  • Signed a letter opposing opening up Alaska’s Kenai Wildlife Refuge to additional extreme hunting practices.
  • Cosponsored legislation that would prohibit oil and gas activities within one mile of polar bear habitat on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
  • Cosponsored the Migratory Bird Protection Act that reaffirms longstanding federal protections for migratory birds.
  • Introduced legislation that would have reversed the Trump administration’s actions to shrink and eliminate some National Marine Monuments.
  • Advocated for wild horses and burros and opposed surgical sterilization—a point of view we agree with. She also supported an amendment in the House appropriations omnibus bill that would have required the Bureau of Land Management to spend $13 million on PZP fertility control treatments for wild horses and burros.

In coming weeks and months, we hope to work with her in her new role to realign the agency’s management regime for wild horses and burros to create a humane, long term, sustainable program that halts and abandons any attempts to use surgical sterilization on mares and instead focuses the agency’s resources on using all proven safe and humane fertility control vaccines to manage these animals.

We also look forward to working together to ensure that ESA protections are restored to wolves, dangerous changes to the ESA are reversed, and the import of trophies of listed species like African elephants, lions and leopards, all currently threatened with extinction, is halted.

Rep. Haaland promises to be a formidable force for the planet and the animals. She was one of the two first female Native Americans to be elected to Congress and she is once again on the verge of making history as the first Native American to head the Department of the Interior, which is also home to the Bureau of Indian Affairs that has responsibility for the management of more than 50,000,000 acres of land held by the U.S. government in trust for federally recognized tribes, and the animals on those lands.

In a tweet soon after her nomination she wrote, “Growing up in my mother’s Pueblo household made me fierce. I’ll be fierce for all of us, our planet, and all of our protected land. I am honored and ready to serve.”

We wish her all the best, and we call on the Senate to confirm her swiftly so she can begin this important work.

Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.

Categories
Equine, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative), Wildlife/Marine Mammals

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5 Comments

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  1. Jeane Camargo da Silva says:

    Deus abençoe para que a nova secretária coloque em prática ações que venham ao encontro do bem estar dos animais.

  2. Carolyn Denton says:

    Thank you for this wonderful news. At last a good human who truly cares about the well being of animals and will fight for them.

  3. Ewa Urbanski says:

    Es ist schön mal was positives zu erfahren.Viel Glück bei Ihrer Arbeit!!!!!

  4. Karen Drennen says:

    After thanking my congressmen for passing the omnibus bill in the house and the senate I found out that the bill did not contain the amendment for the PZP contraceptive for wild horses and burros. The amendment would have directed the BLM to spend 11million of their budget for wild horses and burros for the PZP which is proven to be effective. Instead 14.2 million were added for roundups and just called on BLM to expand their fertility program using methods that are humane and proven effective. They have already stated they want to surgically remove ovaries on mares an invasive procedure that is unsafe and inhumane and life threatening. The BLM plan is to remove 90,000 horses and burros over the next 5 years. There is no guarantee for funding for life long care and their adoption program is a failure. This will just lead to mass slaughter in time. Their adoption program is filled with failures. Many horses are being sold to kill buyers for $25 and they are paying people with no experience to adopt a wild horse by giving them $1000 and then in turn they are selling them to kill buyers. The BLM has failed time and time again to manage these animals. The end of the road is a trip to a slaughter house in Canada, Mexico or overseas. Horses that are lame or sick or unwanted should be humanely euthanized not slaughtered and not sent hundreds of miles to their death. The BLM spends 1% on fertility and 71% on roundups. Time is not on these animals side. I am heartbroken and disappointed.
    This adoption program needs revisited. Holding over 50k horses in stalls without any protection from the elements is wrong. This Path Forward needs revisited. These animals deserve compassion and the government is failing them HSUS needs to get involved and seal these gaps and make PZP a priority and revamp he adoption program that is just sending these animals to slaughter with a middle man.

  5. Karen Drennen says:

    There was an article in the New York Time last week that stated what everyone already knows: the BLM has failed the horses and burros again. Monies given to them by the 21 Omnibus bill is still concentrated on horse round-ups. They are not using PZP (which an amendment to the Omnibus Bill sent last July stating they need to use 11 million of the appropriations must be used for humane birth control); and they want to use invasive surgical techniques on wild horses consciously which is dangerous, painful and life threatening. Their so called successful “adoption” incentive” program is full of gaps which gives people $1000 if they purchase a wild horse and these animals and even though they sign ownership paper they are being sold in massive numbers to kill buyers and people are cashing in. They are selling horses at auction for $25.00 and the third parties then sell them to kill buyers. These animals are not protected. The BLM does not do any follow up on where these horses go they have no idea. Is this really a path forward for these animals? It is going to get to the point now that over 50k are in holding pens out in the elements, sun, rain and BLM is rounding up more animals every year and it will force slaughter due to overpopulation in the pens and that is what the BLM wants to see happen.
    The BLM wants these animals killed and they are slow- walking the system and doing nothing to prevent this from the end result which will be mass slaughter. . the very thing all this money is given to avoid.
    The humane society needs to hold the BLM accountable and help these animals as time is not on their side. They need to be taken to court. The Path Forward is not working. The SAFE act will not be passed until the government knows that all these unwanted horses can be adopted. The round-ups need to stop.

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