U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner introduced fellow Coloradan David Bernhardt on Thursday at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, of which Gardner is a member.
Here is the text of Gardner's introductory remarks as prepared for delivery, provided by his office.
Thank you Madame Chair and Ranking Member Manchin.
It is my honor to introduce fellow Colorado native and my friend, David Bernhardt, as the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources holds this hearing to consider the nomination of Mr. Bernhardt to be Secretary of the Department of the Interior.
Thank you for being here today, David, and I’d also like to welcome his beautiful family that has joined him today.
I appreciate the fact you keep moving up in the agency, David. It means I don’t have to keep writing a brand new speech. I just get to add a little bit more to it!
I have known Mr. Bernhardt personally and professionally for over two decades. His roots are deep in Colorado – both sides in the high plains and in the western slope.
We share a lot of common interests in rural development and saving small towns. My experience stems from growing up in the agricultural community of Yuma on the eastern plains of Colorado. Mr. Bernhardt’s formative years were spent on the western slope of Colorado, an area that is a microcosm of all the things we cherish about public lands.
We both began our public service only one year apart, working for Colorado State Representative Russell George, later to be Speaker of the Colorado House.
Mr. Bernhardt worked with my wife, Jaime, at the Department of the Interior during the George W. Bush Administration.
Mr. Bernhardt’s personal background and public and private sector professional experiences prove he is a strong voice for the West and extremely well-qualified for the nomination to be Secretary.
He has extensive insight on Western water policy, natural resources policy, and Indian affairs just to name a few.
Those that have worked with Mr. Bernhardt commend him for his integrity and wealth of knowledge on the issues under the Department of the Interior’s jurisdiction.
In 2008, after the Department reached the largest Indian water rights settlement in the nation’s history, Secretary Kempthorne personally acknowledged Mr. Bernhardt’s work as then-Solicitor and stated, “His effective coordination – both within Interior as well as with the local, tribal, state and congressional leaders – was essential to the success we celebrate today.”
More recently he worked to accommodate many Western States’ requests for more flexibility under the Greater Sage Grouse RMP Amendment. John Swartout, who as a senior policy adviser ran point on this issue for Colorado’s Democrat Governor John Hickenlooper had this to say in December of 2018 once that process was completed, “David Bernhardt is an honest man, who puts all his cards on the table and keeps his word. I have worked with DOI for 25 years and David is one of the finest people I have ever worked with.”
Dale Hall, the CEO of Ducks Unlimited, an organization that does more real conservation work on the ground than most of the groups who have the word conservation in their name, had this to say when Mr. Bernhardt’s nomination for Secretary was announced, “I have known and worked with David Bernhardt for more than a decade and we are excited to continue to work with him as the new Secretary of the Interior. His integrity in following the law is beyond reproach.
David Bernhardt is a champion of conservation and the right person for the job. We urge the Senate to swiftly confirm him.”
Colleagues of his from his time working for Rep. Scott McInnis, who represented Mr. Bernhardt’s hometown at the time in the House, swore he worked 40 hours a day, 8 days a week. Notably, during Mr. Bernhardt’s tenure in his office, Rep. McInnis was the House author of the bill that led to the designation of the Great Sand Dunes as a national park.
Having now worked at very senior levels in the Department of the Interior over the course of many years, there is zero question Mr. Bernhardt is qualified to do this job. None.
Along with Mr. Bernhardt’s professional career, I believe it is important to fully understand his background and the foundation of his interest in public lands, which further qualifies him for this role.
Mr. Bernhardt is originally from the outskirts of the small town of Rifle, located on Colorado’s Western Slope.
Few places more fully embody the spirit and mission of the agency he has been nominated to lead as Secretary.
Growing up in rural Colorado has instilled in him Western values and interests, and to this day Mr. Bernhardt enjoys hunting, recreation, the outdoors, and fishing.
Rifle is located in Garfield County, an area where about 60 percent of the lands are federal public lands.
Rifle was founded as a ranching community along the Colorado River and retains that heritage today, along with tremendous opportunities for outdoor recreation including fishing, hiking, skiing, rafting, and rock climbing.
It also sits at the edge of the Piceance basin, an area in Colorado that has vast amounts of natural gas.
Mr. Bernhardt grew up in the oil shale boom and bust and has said that the boom and bust, “has made [him] more sensitive to the potential benefits and the potential impacts, both environmental and social.”
In the 1980s, Rifle was hit by the state’s oil-shale crash, and he personally experienced some of the hard times the nation’s rural communities often face.
Much like the Department of Interior itself, Rifle is a community that is a product of its public lands and western heritage.
Rifle is centrally located within a few miles of the iconic Grand Mesa (the world’s largest flat-topped mountain), the Flat Tops Wilderness, and the Roan Plateau. It represents a home base among these public lands with virtually unmatched access to world-class outdoor experiences, which is why Mr. Bernhardt has such a passion for these issues.
Mr. Bernhardt’s previous experience at the Department of the Interior allowed him to fix a problem for Colorado that I was told for 8 years under the Obama administration was unfixable. As a result, revenue owed to three counties in Colorado that had been sitting in an account for over a decade were distributed in early 2018. David believes you don’t just push problems off your front porch to someone else, you find a solution and fix it.
That previous experience includes, prior to his current position, being tapped to be the Solicitor for the Department. Mr. Bernhardt was confirmed as Solicitor by voice vote by the U.S. Senate in 2006.
He earned bipartisan support during his confirmation process in the last Congress as Deputy Secretary.
Mr. Bernhardt’s integrity and ability are assets that should bolster the case for his nomination, not detract from it.
I hope my colleagues can keep this in mind as we conduct the hearing today.
I look forward to Mr. Bernhardt’s testimony and the Committee considering his nomination.