Hello Department of the Interior!
Thank you all for coming. And thanks to those of you who are joining us by satellite, the web, or phone this afternoon. Welcome.
Thank you for the introduction, Julie. Julie is a real superstar at the Department and has done a great job in launching our youth office. Her efforts have helped to make the employment and education of our youth a top priority, and I'm pleased to announce that in fiscal year 2010, the Department of the Interior employed 21,874 youth -- an increase of 45% over the previous year.
Last night President Obama delivered his State of the Union address. His speech provided a roadmap about what America needs to do to win the future. He spoke about the need to create jobs today, what we need to do to be competitive tomorrow, and what we must do to win the future for our children and our country.
As I listened to President Obama, I thought about all the things we at the Department of the Interior are doing - and will be doing - to help our nation harness its true potential.
I thought about how our renewable energy agenda is creating jobs and driving innovation. We are indeed a driving force behind the nation's clean energy future.
I thought about the remarkable progress this Department has made toward ensuring that oil and gas is developed safely and responsibly, so we can meet our nation's energy needs.
I thought about all we are doing to protect the lands, wildlife, history and culture that define us as a people, and that fuels our spirit as Americans.
I thought about our nation's first Americans, and what we are doing to empower Tribes to pursue the future of their choosing.
And I thought about our scientists, engineers, water experts, and all the people in our Department whose daily work helps our economy grow, businesses flourish, and our nation prosper.
The truth is: the strength of our economy -- the strength of our spirit -- the strength of our union -- are all tied to what we do here at the Department of the Interior.
That's why I am so proud to serve as your Secretary. It's also why many of you chose to serve the public from your proud positions in the Department.
The past year at the Department of the Interior has been, in a word, full.
We started out the year with great ambitions to stand up renewable energy on our public lands and oceans, to build a conservation ethic for the 21st century from the ground up, to strengthen the relationship with Indian Country, and to infuse science into the decision-making process.
And while we kept a laser focus on these goals -- and have a great record of achievement to show for it - we also responded with a herculean effort to the tragedy of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that killed 11 men and spilled millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
From the beginning, this Department served an integral role in responding to the disaster.
Biologists from the Fish and Wildlife Service established wildlife recovery centers to save our oiled pelicans and to incubate sea turtle eggs until they could be safely returned to the wild.
Scientists from USGS developed innovative technologies and methods to estimate the spill's flow rate and lent their expertise to the well-control mission.
National Park Rangers donned gloves and shovels to clean the oiled beaches at the Gulf Islands National Seashore.
Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement employees worked overtime to help kill the well and to make offshore oil and gas development safer in the future.
And employees from every corner and region of the Department uprooted their lives, often leaving behind families, to deploy to the Gulf to respond to the disaster.
Our work in the Gulf is by no means over. There is much more to be done to restore the Gulf and rebuild the region, and I am confident that with people like Cindy Dohner from the Fish and Wildlife Service helping lead the charge, we will be successful.
But right now, it is entirely appropriate and completely necessary to thank all of you who contributed in ways large and small to responding to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Your hard work and dedication in the face of the largest oil spill in our nation's history is nothing short of heroic, and I thank you on behalf of a grateful nation.
Please give them a round of applause.
As I look back over the past year, I am proud of the fact that -- in spite of Deepwater Horizon and all the time and resources the Department devoted to it -- we were still able to accomplish the ambitious agenda that we originally set out to do -- and more.
On the conservation front, we welcomed new national wildlife refuges into the family and proposed others.
The new Flint Hills Legacy Conservation Area in Kansas works with farmers and ranchers to protect more than one million acres of the once-vast tallgrass prairie.
In Colorado, the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge formally joined the Department of the Interior. A place that once served as a manufacturing site for weapons and toxic chemicals is now home to bald eagles and roaming buffalo.
And earlier this month, I announced a proposal for a new wildlife refuge and conservation area in Florida at the headwaters to the Everglades. Like Flint Hills, this area would work with local ranchers to preserve their heritage and way of life for generations to come.
The refuges mark a new era of conservation for the Department, one that is community-driven, science-based, and takes into account entire ecosystems and working landscapes.
In 2010 we carried the torch for President Obama's America's Great Outdoors Initiative. Along with our federal partners, the Department held 51 public sessions across the country and heard from more than 100,000 Americans on how we can promote and support innovative community-level conservation efforts and how we can reconnect Americans - especially our youth - to the outdoors.
Soon we will be delivering a report to the President that lays out a vision of an enduring conservation ethic for the 21st century.
At the end of last year, BLM Director Bob Abbey and I announced a new wild lands policy that restores balance and clarity to the management of public lands. The much-needed policy will ensure that the lands of the American public, the places where we hunt, fish, and find solitude, are protected wisely for generations to come.
On the energy front, this Department is helping lead President Obama's charge to build a clean energy economy, and in 2010, we started to unlock our nation's renewable energy potential in unprecedented ways.
We approved more than a dozen solar, wind, geothermal and transmission projects, including nine solar energy projects in the deserts of Nevada and California. Combined, these projects will produce nearly 3700 megawatts of energy, or enough to power over one million homes, and will create nearly 7,300 jobs. These are the first large-scale solar energy projects ever approved on public lands and include what will be the largest solar energy project in the world.
We approved the Cape Wind energy project -- the nation's first offshore wind project -- after the project had languished in red tape for more than 8 years. And we have launched an offshore wind initiative to spur smart, strategic development in our nation's oceans.
We also continued the most aggressive and comprehensive reforms to offshore oil and gas regulation in U.S. history.
We are raising the bar for safety, oversight and environmental protections at every stage of the development process.
And we are establishing an offshore energy safety committee to institutionalize the lessons learned from Deepwater Horizon and bridge the information and technology gap that exists between industry, academia and government.
Internally, we have taken a hard look - top to bottom - at our own operations to see where we need to change the way we do business.
Under the leadership of Michael Bromwich, Director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy, Management, Regulation and Enforcement, we have undertaken a massive overhaul of the agency that regulates offshore energy production.
We are deconflicting the missions of the former MMS by establishing three independent agencies to carry out the three, separate missions of: promoting resource development, enforcing safety regulations, and maximizing revenues from offshore operations.
The new framework will provide the right checks and balances as we evaluate proposed oil and gas projects. The structure will ensure that robust environmental analyses and safety considerations are given appropriate weight throughout the permitting and drilling process.
I know this past year has been especially challenging for the employees of BOEMRE, and I want to thank them for their hard work, patience, and constructive solutions as we undergo this transition and work to make the United States the gold standard in offshore energy production.
In Indian Country, this Department made proud strides over the past year.
In 2010, we saw the historic passage of the Cobell settlement which honorably and responsibly addresses long-standing injustices regarding the U.S. government's trust management.
The President also signed into law four Indian water rights settlements, totaling more than $1 billion, that will help deliver clean drinking water to Indian communities and provide certainty to water users across the west.
And we hosted the second White House Tribal Nations Conference and together renewed our pledge to carry out our agenda of reconciliation and empowerment for Indian nations.
We also continued the drumbeat to restore science to its rightful place in our decision-making process.
We are putting science to work for us with the planned establishment of eight Climate Science Centers around the nation. In coordination with our Landscape Conservation Cooperatives, we are laying a strong foundation for a coordinated strategy to address the impacts of climate change on our land, water, wildlife and resources.
We are also leading the charge to foster a culture of scientific and scholarly integrity. Recognizing that science and scholarship play a vital role in the Department's mission, we are the first agency in the administration to develop policy on scientific integrity.
This policy, which we will be releasing in a Departmental Manual Chapter in the coming days, establishes ethical standards, including a code of conduct, that will apply to all Interior employees - political appointees and career alike - so that good science is never choked out for the sake of expediency or politics.
Today, we should reflect on our accomplishments -- as an Interior team -- in 2010.
But we must also look forward.
That's why I am proud to announce today the release of the Department's five year strategic plan. The comprehensive plan includes five specific priority goals that will help focus our efforts. These are:
* By the end of 2012, the Department will increase approved capacity for production of renewable energy resources on public lands, while ensuring full environmental review, to at least 10,000 megawatts;
* By the end of 2012, for 50 percent of the nation, the Department will identify resources that are particularly vulnerable to climate change and implement coordinated adaptation response actions;
* By the end of 2012, the Department will increase available water supply for agricultural, municipal, industrial, and environmental uses in the western United States by 490,000 acre feet through Reclamation's conservation-related programs;
* By the end of 2012, the Department will increase the employment of youth between the ages of 15-25 in the conservation mission of the Department by 50%.
* And, within 24 months, the Department will achieve significant reduction in crime of at least 5 percent on targeted tribal reservations;
It is an ambitious plan, one with challenging performance targets, and I hope that you will each take some time to review the plan to better understand our mission, priorities and vision for the future.
As I look to the future, I am optimistic.
Building off the achievements of the past two years, we have the potential to do amazing things.
We will continue to usher in a new era of conservation, implementing the America's Great Outdoors Initiative, creating great urban parks, protecting rural, working landscapes, and restoring and enhancing our nation's waterways.
We will continue to build a safe, secure energy future by rapidly and responsibly standing up renewable energy on our public lands. This will take planning that's smart from the start, with thoughtful siting and development, and strong local, federal, and tribal partnerships. With American workers and American ingenuity, these projects will make believers out of skeptics.
We will continue to raise the bar on offshore energy production so that safety and science permeate every decision and so the United States serves as the gold standard in sustainable, profitable oil and gas development.
We will continue to work with Native Americans to build stronger economies and safer communities. We will implement a tribal consultation policy that will provide the framework for an open and transparent nation-to-nation dialogue.
And we will continue to tackle the most pressing challenges of our day, from climate change to water shortages to endangered species, armed with the best science available to us.
At Interior, we often talk about the importance of passing on a better world for our children and grandchildren.
I often find myself thinking about the world in which they will grow up. The life that they will lead. And how our decisions and actions today will affect their tomorrow.
I wonder if they will get to see the massive glaciers at Glacier National Park, or feel the warm sand of the Florida Keys under their feet, or see the great swoop of a bald eagle.
I know that I can't guarantee this for the next generation, but that won't stop the President and me from fighting to fulfill that dream.
And I know, from the work that you do on a daily basis, that you share my determination to win a better future for our children and grandchildren.
So, together, I believe we can win the future.
So thank you, and thank you for your efforts and your service to this Department and to this nation.