New Collaborative Calls on U.S. Senate to Confirm Haaland as Interior Secretary

More than 20 groups form an intersectional, justice-driven approach to public lands protection, climate action

Betsy López-Wagner
, López-Wagner Strategies, (English/Español)
Alfredo Ramirez, ALRAS Digital, (English/Español)

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Denver, CO – The People, Public Lands, and Climate Collaborative officially launches today with U.S.-based organizations from across the outdoor, nature and environmental community banding together to accelerate just climate solutions. Their first official call to action – urging the U.S. Senate to confirm New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland as Secretary of the Interior.

The People, Public Lands, and Climate Collaborative, or The Collaborative for short, and its members share a common, environmental justice-driven goal: ensuring public lands are part of a just and equitable climate change mitigation and adaptation solution. They aim to do this in three ways: by promoting sustainability, climate resiliency, and healthy communities and economies; protecting, connecting, and restoring critical landscapes and lands; and reducing emissions from energy produced on public lands.

“The Collaborative is entering this area of activism with deep roots in intersectionality. We acknowledge that public lands have often been restricted to use and management by individuals and entities with racial, economic, and geographic privilege. We are committed to our common goals of inspiring voices, fortifying sustainable economies, honoring and preserving culture and heritage, and encouraging stewardship of the Earth,” its website, reads.

The groups back Rep. Haaland as a proven national leader and an exceptional selection by the Biden-Harris Administration to serve as Secretary of the Interior, poised to become the first Native American Cabinet Secretary in U.S. history and an environmental steward who will lead with justice-driven values.

The new Collaborative, inclusive of more than 20 organizations and growing, quietly began forming in 2020 as the nation grappled with exceeding racial injustices and police brutality during the global health pandemic and climate crisis. Though, it was in December 2019 when a small group of organizations met in Albuquerque, New Mexico to consider joining together. Their goal was to co-create a strategy for a climate and public lands. Now, the informal network roots its public lands work in the values of intersectionality and community-driven solutions.

Public lands and climate leaders from across the Collaborative shared the following statements Wednesday in acknowledgement of this historic launch:

“We must take bold action now. All climate solutions for public lands must consider emissions and the impacts on communities, economies, and ecosystems. We are experiencing a climate crisis that threatens public health, clean air and water, access to public spaces and recreational areas, Indigenous culture and history, natural biodiversity, and our food systems. The climate crisis is a local and global environmental and social justice issue, we don’t have another lifetime to develop solutions – our time is now,” said Juan Pérez Sáez, who serves as co-chair of the Collaborative and is the Energy and Climate Campaign Manager, The Wilderness Society

“Public lands are an embodiment of our democracy, symbolizing freedom and fairness. The People, Public Lands, and Climate Collaborative unites us in our common goal of ensuring that public lands are part of a just and equitable climate solution promoting climate resiliency and sustainability, while protecting and restoring critical landscapes, and reducing emissions from energy produced on public lands. Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting, and the Outdoors (HECHO) looks forward to continuing our work building solidarity together around climate change and public lands through education, and outreach – instilling a legacy of stewardship for future generations,” said Collaborative member Ándrea Trujillo Guajardo, Policy Director at HECHO.

“En esta época de cambio climático se requiere tener una lucha unida. The People, Public Lands, and Climate Collaborative están tomando pasos para apoyar un movimiento con el mismo propósito. La communidadas hispana continuará luchando para tener los mismo derechos y oportunidades a nuestras tierras y aguas públicas,” said Collaborative member Ángel Peña, Public Lands Policy Advocate at GreenLatinos.

“California’s San Joaquin Valley has been a sacrifice zone for Big Ag and Big Oil far too long, causing epidemic sickness even before COVID19, and placing a disproportionate burden on communities of color and with lower incomes. Protecting public lands and ensuring equitable access are vital for improving public health and mitigating human-caused climate change. The Collaborative centers justice and synergizes strategy between grassroots, Indigenous, and People of Color led organizations with mainstream environmental and conservation organizations to ensure that overburdened communities are prioritized and that future generations have healthy, safe places to live, work, play, and thrive,” said Collaborative member Catherine Garoupa White, Executive Director of the Central Valley Air Quality Coalition.

“NPCA is proud to be part of the People, Public Lands, and Climate Collaborative. To protect national parks in the face of a changing climate we need to ensure that everyone has a seat at the table, and that begins with local communities. Only together can we ensure that our public lands are part of the solution, not the problem. And only together can we support healthy communities and economies while protecting and connecting park landscapes,” said Collaborative member Matt Kirby, Director of Energy and Landscape Conservation at the National Parks Conservation Association.

“Public lands are fundamental to Wyoming’s way of life—as places to recreate, as habitat for wildlife, and as the site of energy development that fuels our economy and funds critical public services. The transition to carbon-free energy in the effort to fight climate change will have profound impacts on Wyoming. We work with the People, Public Lands, and Climate Coalition to help ensure Wyoming can come out on the other side of this historic shift with healthier public lands and wildlife, and stronger, more equitable communities,” said Collaborative member Nate Martin, Executive Director of Better Wyoming.

“Finding solutions to the climate crisis is an ‘all hands on deck’ collaborative effort, and we are excited to be a part of it through the People, Public Lands and Climate Collaborative. As an organization that operates to protect the wildlife, wild places and community character of Jackson Hole, we are working to make our area’s abundant public lands a part of the climate solution – not the problem. Teton County, Wyoming is the wealthiest county, with the largest wealth disparity, in the wealthiest country, in the history of the world. Millions of visitors from all over the world travel here to experience Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks annually. We want to harness the resources and platform of this place to find balanced and equitable solutions toward a just transition in Wyoming, and the world at large,” said Collaborative member Tisa Djahangiri, Civic Engagement Manager of the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance.

“The climate crisis is here and directly impacting the communities we work with every day. To combat the impacts we need bold ideas and we need those organizations most closely working on these issues to be a part of the solution. This Collaborative represents the exact type of thinking needed to guide us through this crisis in the coming years. Friends of Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks are proud to serve in this coalition in an effort to raise up the value protected public lands play in the climate crisis,” said Collaborative member Patrick Nolan, Executive Director of Friends of Organ Mountain Desert Peaks.

“Western Colorado Alliance is a proud supporter of the People, Public Lands, and Climate Collaborative and its pursuit of climate justice. The science is unequivocal. We have very little time left to respond constructively to the climate change crisis. Protection of 30% of the lands and waters in the US by 2030 will reap critical co-benefits for climate change, public health, environment, biodiversity and wildlife. Leveraging locally led efforts will allow immediate scaling to meet the challenge. Progress towards 30×30 is also a path to restore our international leadership in conservation,” said Collaborative member Barbara Vasquez, Western Colorado Alliance leader.

“Great Old Broads for Wilderness celebrates the synergistic work of the People, Public Lands, and Climate Collaborative. We need collective and inclusive action to protect wild lands, build climate resilience, and address equity and justice issues . We don’t have time to wait. Our capacity to advance a climate agenda requires a grassroots approach that activates all voices to protect and preserve America’s land, water, air and wildlife. Public lands can serve as a solution to fighting the climate crisis if we act now to permanently protect them,” said Collaborative member Lauren Berutich, Associate Director of Great Old Broads for Wilderness.

“Public Lands are our heritage, our identity and way of life in Colorado, especially on the westen slope, Defiende Nuestra Tierra and the Wilderness Workshop is proud to be an integral part of the People, Public Lands and Climate Collaborative, together we are united to ensure public lands are transitioning away from fossil fuel development that degrades lands and waters for communities and wildlife, and are part of the solution against climate change. A key goal for the collaborative is for all people to equitably reap the benefits of access to healthy nature and advocate for their own locally-preferred conservation priorities and together bring our diverse voices as a catalyst for change,” said Collaborative member Beatriz Soto, Director of Defiende Nuestra Tierra.

“As climbers, skiers, and mountaineers, the American Alpine Club (AAC) is intimately familiar with America’s public lands. Oddly, federal public lands are the source of 25% of American greenhouse gas emissions, but they are also home to 60% of our climbing areas. Due to a changing climate, our members have witnessed mountain weather become more extreme, glaciers retreat, and dangers from avalanches, rockfall, and wildfires increase. Climate change poses a threat to our way of life, our communities and our climbing landscapes. The AAC is honored to join forces with the People, Public Lands, and Climate Collaborative, and to bring our communities’ knowledge of public land management into the discussion of solving the climate crisis. The outdoor recreation community wants public lands to be a part of the climate solution,” said Collaborative member Taylor Luneau, Policy Manager of the American Alpine Club.

“America’s public lands are majestic expressions of our democracy. They are also sites of dispossession, forced removal, and exclusion for many Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color, while the fossil fuels extracted from our public lands account for more than one-fifth of this country’s climate pollution. It’s time to chart a new path for American conservation by making access to nature more equitable and harnessing the power of our public lands in the fight against climate change that’s disproportionately harming communities of color. We look forward to working with our partners in the People, Public Lands, and Climate Collaborative on solutions to these urgent challenges,” said Collaborative member Alex Taurel, Conservation Program Director at the League of Conservation Voters (LCV).

Public lands at a glance: Over 500 million people visit public lands each year, supporting countless small businesses and local economies across the country. These lands are also responsible for nearly $80 billion in tax revenue annually. Yet, communities of color have been continually deprived of access to public lands and wild places, with over 74 percent of communities of color in the U.S. living in nature-deprived areas.

As the People, Public Lands, and Climate Collaborative seek solutions to the climate crisis, we will push for just plans and equitable policies centered around communities, economies and people.


The People, Public Lands, and Climate Collaborative is an informal network of U.S.-based NGOs who believe in the importance of a climate plan for public lands. Learn more about the Collaborative, here: