(EnviroNews DC News Bureau) — Orick, California — As part of a three-state tour spanning Washington, California and Wyoming, White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) Chairwoman Brenda Mallory accompanied Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland to meet with Congressman Jared Huffman (D-CA), Yurok Tribal leadership, Save the Redwoods League and local stakeholders for a press conference inside Redwood National and State Parks. The tour promoted the Biden Administration’s America the Beautiful initiative — a vision that works “to conserve at least 30 percent of [American] lands and waters by 2030.”
The America the Beautiful initiative pulls the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI/Interior) together with the Departments of Agriculture and Commerce, the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality. At the Aug. 11 press conference, Haaland added, “Earlier this year the Interior Department and our sister agencies outlined the America the Beautiful initiative, which is a vision for a collaborative, inclusive and locally-led effort toward conservation — and it’s partnerships like Redwoods Rising that form the backbone of this crucial effort.”
After being introduced by Huffman, Mallory took to the podium and pulled no punches asserting, “Every Californian knows that the climate crisis is here and that it is already destroying people’s lives and livelihoods. Last summer we saw the skies in the Golden State turn dark in the middle of the day.”
In a news roundup, the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI/Interior) said Mallory and Haaland embarked on the three-state sojourn to meet with “community leaders, elected officials, and Tribes to highlight the Biden-Harris administration’s investments in Tribal communities, climate resiliency, offshore wind energy, and conservation efforts in line with the America the Beautiful initiative.”
Mallory also received a shoutout from Haaland at the event, with the Secretary adding this to her own speech:
I also would like to thank Chair Mallory. She has travelled with me these last few days. You know, whenever we talk about, or we mention, the [Council on] Environmental Quality, I want to say environmental equality. For some reason that just comes out of my mouth, and in a way that seems also true right, that we want everyone to have equal access to the beauty and the goodness that comes from our natural resources and the lands that all of us love so much. So, I’m very grateful to you Brenda for being here.
Also transpiring at this event was a moment that moved Haaland — America’s first Native American presidential Cabinet member — to tears. After Yurok Chairman Joseph L. James expressed his people’s gratitude to the Secretary, he sang a traditional song, whereafter the Yurok gifted Haaland with an elaborate necklace. “I’m so honored to be here Chairman James,” she expressed tearfully after greeting all on-hand in her Native Keres Pueblo language.
Before being confirmed by the Senate as America’s 12th CEQ Chair on April 14, 2021, Mallory had a long and distinguished career, filling senior roles at both the EPA and CEQ. She is the first African American to become chair of the White House CEQ. Mallory is a graduate of Yale College and Columbia Law School and according to the White House website, “As Chair, she advises the President on environmental and natural resources policies that improve, preserve, and protect public health and the environment for America’s communities.” Regarding her distinguished career, the White House website highlights her career this way:
She was involved in major Clean Water Act jurisdictional actions, including signature Supreme Court cases and the development of the 2015 Clean Water Rule. She served as EPA’s representative on a White House Task Force on Energy Project Streamlining with a focus on Clean Water Act permitting. She led EPA’s Pesticide and Toxic Substances Law Office as the agency tackled lead in renovations, lead and mercury in products, and early efforts to reform the Toxics Substances Control Act and address PFAS contamination. She also worked closely with agency officials on significant emergency response efforts, including those in response to the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Hurricane Katrina, and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
The transcript to Mallory’s speech at DOI’s event at Redwood National and State Parks reads as follows:
Congressman Jared Huffman: So, with that, I will hand off to CEQ Chair Brenda Mallory.
Chairwoman Brenda Mallory: Hello everyone. It’s a pleasure to be here and to see so many friendly faces out there. Good afternoon, it has been just so tremendous to spend that last couple of days in California, and this morning in particular in the majestic country that you all have the privilege of living in, and which I enjoyed just learning a little bit more about today.
Every Californian knows that the climate crisis is here and that it is already destroying people’s lives and livelihoods. Last summer we saw the skies in the Golden State turn dark in the middle of the day, and today the second largest wildfire in state history is burning through communities. Nevertheless, I am so encouraged hearing about the steps that Redwoods Rising, the Park Service and other local partners are taking to restore lands that were logged decades ago.
As I said to Sam [Hodder] a little earlier, all of the words that he used in describing the work that is going on are absolute buzzwords. He talked about collaboration, he talked about partnership, he talked about working together with the federal government, working with the states, working with the local communities. And that’s really what we are striving to see happen, and happen in a more organized and thoughtful way because we think that’s what gets the best results.
Transitioning to second generation forests, to more diverse tree species and providing space for better conditions that will make the area more resilient in the face of future climate catastrophes is absolutely essential at this point. And looking ahead at the bipartisan infrastructure deal, there’s so much that we’re going to be able to build on on the efforts that are already occurring.
The deal targets funding to 10 million acres of land near fire-prone communities to increase the resilience to wildfire and to protect the watersheds for public drinking water. It includes billions needed to reduce fuel-loads in our federal forests and resources to work across state lines with Tribal, state and local partners. It invests 100 million dollars for the Collaborate Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP) that supports science-based ecosystem restoration of priority forest landscapes. And it includes the REPLANT Act, which removes the artificial cap that has prevented the Forest Service from promoting the replanting and reforestation of our nation’s forests. These funds will allow for hundreds of millions of dollars to be driven to this critical need, such as the uneven-aged management areas that we toured today.
In addition to what the bipartisan agreement offers, President Biden has set a bold conservation goal for protecting and conserving 30 percent of the lands and waters in the United States in the America the Beautiful initiative. This historic conservation goal drives us to think about ways we can be better stewards of our natural resources in order to confront the climate crisis and related threats like extreme heat and wildfires and floods. It also addresses the extinction crisis we are facing.
The work happening here to restore forests, remove unnecessary roads and rebuild habitat are exactly the kind of locally-driven, collaborative projects America the Beautiful wants to support. As I look forward to seeing what unfolds here — how this project moves forward and the success that you will have here — and to use that as an example, as a model for other communities to see how success can be achieved. So, thanks for listening, and now, I want to turn it over to Secretary Haaland.
FROM THE SAME PRESS CONFERENCE