Remarks on Rural America from Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland
We were honored to have U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland speak at Rural Assembly Everywhere May 10, 2022.
“I know that many rural towns and communities that were hard hit by the economic impacts of the pandemic are even more pressed when it comes to the harmful impacts of climate change like drought wildfire and water shortages. Many small towns have seen industries come and go, leaving behind economic instability for the families who live there,” Sec. Haaland said. “But I also know that rural communities are self-reliant and pragmatic. I know that you’re not looking for a handout, but rather investments and the tools to thrive. I want to do what I can as a steward of public lands to support a vision for conservation and public land management that embraces the strengths that rural communities bring to the table.”
Hello everyone. Thanks for having me for the Rural Assembly Everywhere virtual festival. I’m coming to you all from the ancestral homelands of the Anacostan and Piscataway people.
Rural communities are beautiful places in our country. They’re places where people know their kids classmates, where open space is abundant, and where life moves at a pace that nurtures tight-knit connections.
Mesita, the community where I spent much of my childhood in New Mexico, sits below a large red mesa, and is about an hour from the nearest city. I remember climbing that mesa playing in the desert and helping my grandparents tend to the cornfield and carry on our traditions. I fell in love with rural areas in New Mexico when I was organizing in them.
And now as I travel across the country, it’s clear that rural communities are blessed by natural resources open skies and are shaped by the land and water that surrounds them. It’s also clear that the people who live in rural areas love their space and their neighbors.
I know that many rural towns and communities that were hard hit by the economic impacts of the pandemic are even more pressed when it comes to the harmful impacts of climate change like drought, wildfire, and water shortages. Many small towns have seen industries come and go, leaving behind economic instability for the families who live there.
But I also know that rural communities are self-reliant and pragmatic. I know that you’re not looking for a handout, but rather investments and the tools to thrive. I want to do what I can as a steward of public lands to support a vision for conservation and public land management that embraces the strengths that rural communities bring to the table.
As part of the Biden Harris administration’s Rural America tour, I was in Alaska this month to see firsthand the needs of communities in remote areas of the state and deliver some great news about the infrastructure investments available to them. The president’s bipartisan infrastructure law invests in all of America, from big cities to small towns. At Interior, we’re implementing $8.3 billion dollars in water and drought resilience. With this funding and working together we will support water efficiency and recycling programs, rural water projects, water smart grants and dam safety to ensure that irrigators, tribes and adjoining communities receive adequate assistance and support. This work will go a long way to accomplish our shared goal of building resilient communities and protecting our water supplies for families, farmers, ranchers, tribes, businesses, and entire communities.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure law also includes important resources that will protect the health of our communities, like $16 billion dollars to plug orphan gas wells and reclaim abandoned mine lands, many of which are near low income communities and communities of color; $1.4 billion dollars for ecosystem restoration and resilience, which goes a long way to ensuring all communities have clean air and water.
But we know we can’t do this alone.
That’s why the President’s call to action to conserve connect and restore 30 percent of our lands and waters by 2030 is for the sake of our economy our health and our well-being.
This call to action is named the America the Beautiful Initiative. It’s an initiative that recognizes that every community has a role to play in our conservation future and centers on collaborative conservation.
It’s something that the Rural Assembly already does, and I will say we need rural voices in this work because it’s going to take all of us working together to address the climate threats that put our communities at risk. We can build a better more inclusive America for future generations.
Thank you all for the opportunity to share a few words and wish you the best in the rest of the conference.
Presented by The Rural Assembly, Rural Assembly Everywhere is a virtual festival for rural advocates and the rural-curious, listeners and leaders, neighbors and admirers. See more from the Rural Assembly by subscribing to our weekly newsletter.