Category: Public Lands News

Interior Department’s Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Makes Significant Investments in Racial Equity, Civil Rights Movement Preservation

WASHINGTON —As part of the Biden-Harris administration’s whole-of-government approach to advancing equity and justice, the Department of the Interior’s 2022 budget proposal contains major investments in initiatives that advance racial equity and tell the stories of historically underrepresented communities and the struggle for civil rights.   “From our national parks and monuments, to our own workforce development efforts, telling the rich, diverse story of America is a priority for us at Interior. President Biden’s budget will make much-needed investments in communities and projects that will advance our vision for an equitable future while preserving the past,” said Secretary Deb Haaland. “We will continue to center the voices of those who have been historically unrepresented or underrepresented as we strive to lift up every community through our work.” 
The President’s 2022 budget proposal includes a $12.8 million increase across the Department to better address diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in our workforce. As part of this process, the Department is working to identify gaps, challenges, best practices, and examine what changes need to be made to ensure this opportunity for growth and discovery within the agency. 
Through the President’s Justice40 Initiative, the Department will seek to bring 40 percent of the overall benefits of relevant federal investments to underserved communities. This initiative will focus on clean energy and energy efficiency, training and workforce development, the reduction of legacy pollution, and affordable and sustainable housing in Tribal communities. 
The budget also includes significant investments in other Interior programs, including:  

$15 million to expand capacity for national park units and programs that preserve and tell the story of historically underrepresented and marginalized groups.  
$10 million for the Selma Interpretive Center to construct a voting rights center that honors the legacy of civil rights leaders, including the late Congressman John Lewis.  
$10 million for Historically Black Colleges and Universities through the National Park Service Historic Preservation Fund.    
$5 million in additional funds for competitive historic preservation grants to increase support to State and local efforts to preserve sites that document the struggle for civil rights and equal opportunity for African Americans.   
$3 million to continue support for the work of the 400 Years of African American History Commission. 
$540,000 in Land and Water Conservation Fund funding to preserve the Forks of the Road slave market site at the Natchez National Historical Park, which is listed on the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom and is an important part of America’s history. 

For more information on the President’s FY22 Budget, please visit the President’s Budget page. 

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Interior Department Suspends Oil and Gas Leases in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

WASHINGTON — The Department of the Interior today suspended all activities related to the implementation of the Coastal Plain Oil and Gas Leasing Program in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge pending completion of a comprehensive analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).Secretarial Order 3401 directs the Department to initiate a comprehensive environmental analysis to review the potential impacts of the Program and to address legal deficiencies in the current leasing program’s environmental review under NEPA. The Department is notifying lessees that it is suspending oil and gas leases in the Arctic Refuge, pending the review, to determine whether the leases should be reaffirmed, voided, or subject to additional mitigation measures.
Under the previous administration, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) established and began administering an oil and gas program in the Coastal Plain of the Arctic Refuge. After the BLM prepared the “Coastal Plain Oil and Gas Leasing Program Environmental Impact Statement” (EIS) under NEPA, the BLM held a lease sale on January 6, 2021, and subsequently issued 10-year leases on nine tracts covering more than 430,000 acres.
On Day One, President Biden issued Executive Order 13990, directing the Interior Department to review oil and gas activity in the Arctic Refuge. After conducting the required review, the Department identified defects in the underlying Record of Decision supporting the leases, including the lack of analysis of a reasonable range of alternatives in the EIS conducted under NEPA.

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New Data Shows Visits Soared Across National Forests in 2020

New data shows more people than ever visited national forests and grasslands last year, according to a Forest Service report released today. National forests and grasslands received 168 million visits in 2020 – an increase of 18 million when compared to 2019.
The Forest Service, working closely with partners, was able to keep more than 80% of recreation sites open to visitors during the pandemic, while maintaining a focus on visitor and staff safety. The report, compiled by the Forest Service’s National Visitor Use Monitoring program, shows the steepest increase in visits happened between May and October of last year. Dispersed recreation sites and wilderness areas saw the most significant increases, with an estimated 25% increase in visitation overall. Visits to those areas surged even higher in the summer months when compared to 2019.
The data also shows that visitors enjoyed their experience, with 95% of visitors reporting being satisfied or very satisfied with their visit.
“We’re honored to have helped so many people safely find respite and relief during the pandemic,” said Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen. “Our national forests and grasslands offer some of the most readily available and valuable outdoor recreation settings in the country. As we enter the summer months this year, we look forward to providing positive experiences on our national forests and grasslands, and working with partners to support safe and equitable access to the outdoors.”
Completed in five-year cycles, the National Visitor Use Monitoring results give the Forest Service the information they need to best manage recreation to meet visitor demands while continuing the care for the long-term health and productivity of America’s national forests and grasslands. Results in this report reflect the most recent field data on each national forest and include fiscal years 2016 through 2020.
To learn more, visit  

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