David Bernhardt was confirmed as the 53rd Interior Department Secretary in a 56-41 vote today in the Senate.
Secretary Bernhardt, 49, a lawyer and lobbyist who began working for the Department of the Interior in 2001, has held various roles within the department, including deputy solicitor, solicitor, deputy secretary and most recently, acting secretary, replacing former Secretary Ryan Zinke in January 2019.
In 2009, Bernhardt left the DOI to rejoin Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, a law firm he had worked for previously. His legal clients have included the Independent Petroleum Association of America, Rosemont Copper Company and Halliburton, according to the U.S. Office of Government Ethics. In 2016, Bernhardt withdrew his official lobbyist registration and in 2017, President Trump nominated him to be deputy secretary of the interior.
As interior secretary, David Bernhardt will oversee agencies that include the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. With its more than 70,000 employees, the Interior Department is responsible for conserving and maintaining some 245 million acres of public lands, or about 20 percent of the nation’s lands.
As head of the DOI, Bernhardt will also oversee the development of conventional and renewable energy supplies as well as upholding relationships with federally recognized tribal entities, managing water in 17 Western states and appointing the National Park Foundation board.
During a March 28 Senate committee hearing, senators from both sides of the aisle urged then Acting Secretary Bernhardt to take swift action to begin implementing the provisions of the recently passed bipartisan public lands package if confirmed. Some also advocated on behalf of increased budget for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which awards funding to public lands in all 50 states.
Bernhardt is expected to be sworn in as interior secretary in the coming days. For more information about what to expect from the new DOI head, read the Co-op Journal’s previous coverage: