“The undeniable, accelerating, punishing reality of climate change is exacting an incalculable toll on lives and livelihoods in every community across the country,” a Biden-Harris transition official said in a statement.
“They will work closely with communities who bear the outsized burden of environmental injustice, including Tribal Nations and communities of color, and young Americans who will live with the long-term consequences of climate change," they added.
If confirmed, Haaland will make history as the first Native American to serve as Secretary of the Interior, a branch of government that oversees U.S. natural resources, heritage and tribal lands.
While Haaland’s nomination has been met with applause from Democratic leadership, conservatives have voiced their concerns about the anti-fracking New Mexico lawmaker, who opposes the oil and gas industry prevalent in her home state.
"It’s hard to see a bright spot for our state because of her extreme position on energy," the Republican Party of New Mexico said in a statement following the announcement. "Biden’s pick confirms that he plans to systematically take apart our important oil and gas industry."
Republican Party of New Mexico Chairman Steve Pearce also expressed concerns and said Biden’s pick to lead the Department of Interior “doesn’t bode well for the energy industry as a whole."
"Oil and gas is New Mexico’s bread and butter, providing billions in revenue, more than 40% of our state’s budget and more than 100,000 jobs,” Pearce said in a statement Thursday.
Biden has selected candidates to lead what he described as his “climate team,” including North Carolina environmental regulator Michael Regan to head the EPA, former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm to lead the Energy Department and former Obama EPA chief Gina McCarthy as czar of Biden’s new White House climate change office.
Haaland’s nomination for Interior shows a significant shift in how Biden intends to tackle his goal of lowering greenhouse gas emissions and transition the U.S. into “cleaner” energies – a move that progressives like Green New Deal sponsor Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. have applauded.
"This is a big deal," Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Twitter Thursday afternoon. "Historic appointment. A visionary Native woman in charge of federal lands. Unequivocally progressive. Green New Deal champion. Exquisitely experienced."
Haaland has repeatedly called for an all-out ban on fracking, rhetoric that has conservatives concerned despite Biden’s claims on the campaign trail that he does not intend to completely end the controversial method of extracting oil and gas. Without proper safety regulations, fracking can lead to polluted groundwater and surface water, and also threaten wildlife, among other concerns.
The 60-year Democrat told the Guardian in a 2019 interview that she was “wholeheartedly against fracking and drilling on public lands” – a sentiment shared by Biden’s proposed plan for a “clean energy revolution.”
Some Republicans fear her support of the Green New Deal will go further than Biden’s plan to just end new fracking initiatives.
“As a Native American woman who’s ancestral homeland is under attack from the Fossil Fuel Industry: I 100% support a Green New Deal and a Congressional Climate Commission,” she wrote in a 2018 tweet.
But while conservatives have voiced opposition to the nomination of Haaland, the National Parks Foundation threw their support behind the decision, calling the first term Democrat a “strong champion for these wonderful places.”
“We are confident that national parks and public lands will be in good hands under her leadership,” NPF said in a statement to Fox News. “Representative Haaland recognizes the value and importance of the more than 400 natural, cultural, and historical parks that reflect all of our stories.”
Haaland noted the complex past that Native Americans share with the Department of Interior and said, “A voice like mine has never been a Cabinet secretary or at the head of the Department of Interior.”
“Growing up in my mother’s Pueblo household made me fierce,” Haaland wrote on Twitter Thursday night. “I’ll be fierce for all of us, our planet, and all of our protected land. I am honored and ready to serve.”