The Trump administration’s nominee for director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service called a recent court decision to relist grizzly bears under the Endangered Species Act a waste of …
The Trump administration’s nominee for director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service called a recent court decision to relist grizzly bears under the Endangered Species Act a waste of resources.
Responding to questions from U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., on Wednesday morning, Fish and Wildlife nominee Aurelia Skipwith said “science shows that the grizzly bear and the gray wolf are biologically recovered.”
“It’s truly a success of the Endangered Species Act,” Skipwith said of bears and wolves. “That those species are still on the list, that ends up directing resources to work on [those species] instead of focusing on imperiled species that really need recovery efforts.”
Wolves in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming were delisted in 2011, with Wyoming’s population removed from federal management in 2017. The Fish and Wildlife Service is currently attempting to delist the gray wolf in all of the lower 48 states.
In his remarks, Barrasso said that, “despite the Fish and Wildlife Service’s best efforts, it took years to delist the gray wolf in Wyoming and to return it to state management following a full recovery of the species.”
As for grizzly bears, those in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem were relisted by a federal judge in Montana in 2018, canceling planned hunts in Wyoming and Idaho.
“Wyoming is no stranger to the challenges that states face when courts intervene in conservation decisions,” Barrasso told Skipwith.
President Donald Trump nominated Skipwith as director back on Oct. 23, 2018. However, it took nearly a year for her nomination to make it to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, which Barrasso chairs.
As news of the nomination was made public last year, Skipwith said she hoped “to lead the service in achieving a conservation legacy second only to President Teddy Roosevelt.”
“I understand the necessary balance of natural resources among the different user groups and conservation is at the core of it all. That is what has led me here today,” she said in her opening statement before the committee on Wednesday.
Skipwith also noted that more than 70 percent of the United States is privately owned.
“If confirmed, it will be a priority of mine to work closely with private landowners, states, tribes and federal partners so that our decisions as stewards of public resources are mutually beneficial to trust species, the land owners and the American public,” she said.
Skipwith currently serves as deputy assistant secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks at the Department of the Interior.
She began her career at Monsanto, the former agrochemical company, and served as assistant corporate counsel at Alltech, Inc., a Kentucky company with operations in animal feed, meat, brewing and distilling.
Skipwith studied animal science at Morehead State University, and biology and research at Howard University. After receiving her degree from Howard, she received a masters of science in molecular biology and genetics in animal sciences from Purdue University. She later earned a law degree from the University of Kentucky.
If confirmed as the director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, Skipwith would be the first African American to hold the position.