Since 1849, the Department of the Interior has been charged with important management and stewardship responsibilities. Despite the passage of time, the Department’s core missions remain intact: to protect and manage the nation’s natural resources and cultural heritage; provide scientific and other information about those resources; and honor its trust responsibilities or special commitments to American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, and affiliated island communities.
The Department’s Strategic Plan for fiscal year 2022-2026 outlines how the agency will ensure that these missions are carried out and deliver on Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland and the Biden-Harris administration’s priorities. The Strategic Plan integrates equity, justice, climate, and environmental management into the breadth of activities in which the Department engages.
The climate crisis is one of the greatest challenges facing America, and the world, today. For the Department of the Interior, tackling the crisis crosses multiple mission responsibilities. To achieve its missions, The Department is committed to:
Curbing greenhouse gas emissions from permitted activities on federal lands and waters
Water conservation and management
Improving land management, including reclamation, reforestation, and reducing wildland fire risk
Strengthening resilience of existing wildlife, native species, and ecosystems
Reclaiming abandoned mines and wells and restoring local topography
Mitigating climate change effects on vulnerable and at-risk communities served by the Department
Reducing the Department’s own carbon footprint by decreasing greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption in its buildings and operations
The integration of these commitments is already underway. In 2021, the agency established cross-Departmental task forces and coordination teams to leverage proven and promising science-based strategies to promote climate resiliency, adaptation, and mitigation of vulnerabilities.
The Department is deeply committed to upholding and advancing diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA), with an increasing emphasis on closing the gap in benefits and opportunities for individuals and communities that have been historically underserved and underrepresented. Helping guide this commitment, its goals and objectives is the Department’s DEIA Strategic Plan.
A central part of this effort is collaboration. The Department will work with federal partners, community groups, non-governmental organizations, and subject matter experts to help guide the planning and implementation of programs to better reach traditionally underserved customers and understand and adapt to the shifting needs and priorities of the communities that the Department serves.
The Department will also strengthen its workforce to be more representative of the country that it serves, removing obstacles that affect its ability to hire and retain members of underrepresented communities, assess workplace culture, and identify and address behaviors that can lead to inequity, intolerance, discrimination, and harassment.
The new strategic plan reaffirms the Department’s commitment to locally led conservation, a priority of the Biden-Harris administration. In response to the climate and biodiversity crises, environmental injustice, and broad recognition that healthy ecosystems can strengthen the economy and create jobs, President Biden launched America the Beautiful, a locally led, decade-long effort to restore and conserve lands and waters across the nation. It is rooted in the desire to better support and honor the people and communities who serve as stewards of America’s lands, waters and wildlife, and to ensure that people from across the country have access to America’s rich and vibrant lands and waters.
Leaders at the Department will also work to center environmental justice in the management of natural and cultural resources. Across the agency, programs will ensure equitable treatment of, and benefit accrual to, communities that have traditionally been underserved or underrepresented in decisions, including through the Justice40 initiative, which directs federal agencies to ensure 40 percent of certain program benefits accrue to these customers and stakeholders.
As a steward of Tribal trust assets, the Department plays a critical role in fulfilling the United States’ trust responsibility to federally recognized Tribes. This government-to-government principle, grounded in the U.S. Constitution, has helped to shape the long history of relations between the federal government and Tribal Nations.
It is the policy of the Department to recognize and fulfill its legal obligations to identify, protect and conserve Tribal trust resources; carry out its trust relationship with Tribal Nations; and consult on a government-to-government basis through all Bureaus and Offices to engage in robust, interactive, pre-decisional, informative and transparent consultation on plans or actions that impact Tribal interests.
In an effort to fulfil this goal, the Department has promoted Tribal consultations, updated consultation policy, trained Departmental leadership and staff on these initiatives, and reviewed specific policies that inhibit or hinder consultation. In the coming years, consultation will remain a priority for the Department to ensure that plans and policies are more responsive to Tribes and to strengthen government-to-government relationships.
Through the execution of its strategic plan, the Department will assess programs and activities to better attract people of all backgrounds to recreational opportunities and educational programs. A key element to achieve this mission is the implementation of the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA). Through GAOA, the Department is investing in much-needed maintenance for critical facilities and infrastructure in our national parks, wildlife refuges, recreation areas, and Bureau of Indian Education funded schools. GAOA authorizes up to $1.9 billion annually for five years to fund deferred maintenance projects—investments that will increasingly benefit underserved communities and help advance the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to equity.
The Department will also continue to strengthen youth programs and partnerships, including conservation corps, to build healthy and resilient public lands and further enhance America’s economic growth with support for workforce development, good-paying jobs, and long-term investments in climate adaptation, mitigation and resiliency.
The passage of President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law has provided the Department a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make a lasting impact and investment for the benefit of all people, the environment, and the nation. The Department is already moving quickly to implement the Law, with nearly $30 billion in federal investments to:
Address environmental and safety hazards associated with abandoned mine lands and orphaned gas and oil wells
Strengthen the prevention and resilience to wildland fire
Proactively address water storage, recycling and provision to communities
Ecosystem restoration, including protecting endangered species and mitigating incursion of invasive species
Strengthen government-to-government relations with Tribes
In the implementation of the Law, the Department is centering DEIA principles, which is helping drive consultation with Tribes and communities across the country. While programs established by the Law are helping address today’s urgent needs, they will provide resources long into the future.
The 2022–2026 Strategic Plan establishes a high-level framework against which strategies and new initiatives can be aligned, considered and adopted. Department leaders are committed to making these decisions, being transparent in planning, and providing public updates through the annual performance planning process.
As the Department implements its plan, it will remain customer and mission-focused when adjusting to challenges, overcoming obstacles, and ensuring the best possible use of resources for the American people and the planet. The Department also commits to doing this thoughtfully, equitably, fairly, with a foundation in solid science and data, and with openness and transparency.