Gardner Introduces David Bernhardt, Nominee for Deputy Secretary of the Interior, at Confirmation Hearing

Washington, D.C. – Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) today introduced Colorado-native David Bernhardt to the Energy and Natural Resources Committee at his confirmation hearing to become the Deputy Secretary at the Department of the Interior.


David Bernhardt’s nomination is supported by several stakeholder groups in Colorado and across the country, including the Colorado River District, Colorado Water Congress, Southern Ute Indian Tribe, Outdoor Recreation Industry Roundtable, and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.


Gardner also spoke about moving the Bureau of Land Management’s headquarters to the West to be closer to the people it serves and the Arkansas Valley Conduit project in Southeast Colorado during the question and answer portion of the hearing. You can view a video of the introduction and questioning here.


Introductory remarks as prepared for delivery:

Thank you Madame Chair and Ranking Member Cantwell.


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 Deputy Secretary of the Department of the Interior. 


Welcome David to the Committee, and welcome to his beautiful family that has joined him today. 


Will, you might not remember this, but you spent some time in daycare with our oldest daughter. 



I have known Mr. Bernhardt personally and professionally for nearly two decades.


We both grew up in rural Colorado – I am from the Eastern Plains and Mr. Bernhardt from the Western Slope.  We share a lot of common interests in rural development and saving small towns.   


We both began our public service only one year apart, interning 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 with their offices at one point just around the corner from one another.


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 Deputy Secretary. 


He has extensive insight on Western water policy, natural resources policy, and Indian affairs 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.”


The country will benefit from having Mr. Bernhardt serve as Deputy Secretary – a position that is the second ranking official within the Department with statutory responsibilities as the chief operating officer.


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 Deputy 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. 


His background and outlook on public lands and water issues assisted him in his prior service at the Department of the Interior, including the Solicitor’s role.  Mr. Bernhardt’s confirmation as Solicitor was confirmed by voice vote by the U.S. Senate in 2006.


There have been other nominees considered by the Committee who practiced private law between public service appointments at the Department of the Interior, including during the Obama administration.  Mr. Bernhardt has taken the same steps these nominees did in order for his nomination to move forward today. 


Mr. Bernhardt’s integrity and ability are two of his strongest qualities for this nomination. 


Public service requires certain sacrifices and I appreciate Mr. Bernhardt and his family’s acceptance of the nomination to be considered by the Committee. 


I hope that the confirmation process has not become a broken process that disincentives qualified people, like Mr. Bernhardt, who are held in high professional regard from returning to public service.


As the Committee takes up his nomination, I urge my colleagues to hold the nominee to the same process and practice we hold all nominees that are under consideration from the Committee. 


I look forward to Mr. Bernhardt’s testimony and the Committee considering his nomination. 


Thank you.



Cory Gardner is a member of the U.S. Senate serving Colorado. He sits on the Energy & Natural Resources Committee, the Foreign Relations Committee, the Commerce, Science, & Transportation Committee, and the Budget Committee, and is the Chairman of the Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy and Subcommittee on Energy.


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