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President Trump's Nomination for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director

Trump's nomination
U.S. Department of the Interior

President Trump's nomination of Aurelia Skipwith to lead the USFWS is met with both praise and criticism, from all of the usual suspects.

President Donald Trump's nomination of Aurelia Skipwith to be the Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has earned criticism from environmental advocates and praise from cabinet members and sportsmen's organizations. The split is about what you'd expect.

The Department of the Interior released a press release announcing Skipwith's nomination. The release indicated that "Skipwith currently serves as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks in the Department of the Interior, where her team is responsible for ensuring the protection and stewardship of lands and waters within the national park and wildlife refuge systems.

Previously, she served as Assistant Corporate Counsel at Alltech, Inc. Skipwith earned her B.S. in biology from Howard University, M.A. in molecular genetics from Purdue University, and J.D. from the University of Kentucky College of Law. Skipwith is the first African American and third woman to ever be nominated to the position."

Praise

Skipwith's nomination was heralded by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

"For the past year and a half while she served as a Deputy Assistant Secretary, I've come to know Aurelia Skipwith as a professional, a scientist and passionate conservationist, and I know she will be an incredible Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service," said Secretary Zinke.

"She has helped lead some of my top priorities for getting more people to enjoy our public lands, like expanding access for hunting and fishing, recognizing National Urban Refuge Day, and designating sites on the African American Civil Rights Network. I look forward to her speedy confirmation."

Additional voices supporting Skipwith included Jeff Trandahl, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation; Darrell Henry, Executive Director of the Western Caucus Foundation; and Ethan Lane, Executive Director of the Public Lands Council.

Jeff Landry, Attorney General of Louisiana, added, "Living in a state blessed with abundant fish and wildlife as diverse as the people who seek them out, I applaud President Trump for his nomination of Aurelia Skipwith for Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service." 

"Aurelia has a lifetime of leadership in the private and public sectors - working to conserve, promote, and enhance our natural resources; and I am confident that she will lead the agency with honor and integrity," Landry continued. "An accomplished attorney and experienced biology researcher, Aurelia will work diligently to enforce the laws while improving relations with local governments and sportsmen. I hope she is quickly confirmed by the Senate."

Criticism

Environmental groups cite Skipwith's tenure with agribusiness company Monsanto as reason to disqualify her from senate approval. Skipwith worked for Monsanto from 2006 to 2012, first in the regulatory sciences department and then in corporate affairs. 

The far left environmental advocacy organization Center for Biological Diversity sharply criticized Skipwith's nomination, calling her "utterly unqualified."

"Aurelia Skipwith has been working in the Trump administration all along to end protections for billions of migratory birds, gut endangered species safeguards and eviscerate national monuments," said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity. "Skipwith will always put the interests of her old boss Monsanto and other polluters ahead of America's wildlife and help the most anti-environmental administration in history do even more damage." 

"Putting unqualified ideological fanatics into positions of power continues to be the Trump administration's game plan," Hartl added. "These people have utterly no compunction or shame about destroying the very agencies they're being appointed to lead."

Also critical was the Western Values Project, which said that "Skipwith's nomination is business as usual for an administration that has sought to reward its allies at the expense of public lands and wildlife."

Endorsed by sportsmen's organizations

However, sportsmen's organization the Boone and Crockett Club gave Skipwith a ringing endorsement, calling her the "right choice."

Paul Phillips, co-chairman of the Club's Conservation Policy Committee indicated, "This is a critical appointment because our fish and wildlife are critical natural resources to our nation. This might be stating the obvious, but the challenges facing our fish and wildlife require a deeper dive than what just lies on the surface. Skipwith has proven she has the knowledge, experience, and energy to not just maintain, but enhance these resources for all Americans."

For her part, Skipwith declared,

"I am deeply honored that President Trump has considered me for the role of Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service. During the past 18 months as Deputy Assistant Secretary, I have had the distinction to work with dedicated people of the Service to ensure the implementation of this Administration's and Secretary Zinke's policies to protect our species, increase public access, and ensure science is at forefront of our decisions. If confirmed, I look forward to the opportunity to lead the Service in achieving a conservation legacy second only to President Teddy Roosevelt."

"I have had the privilege of working with Ms. Skipwith in her current capacity at the Department of the Interior," said James L. Cummins, also a co-chairman of the Boone and Crockett Club's Conservation Policy Committee. "The nation is fortunate to be the beneficiary of her service."

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NEXT: WHO'S STEALING YOUR PUBLIC LANDS?

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President Trump's Nomination for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director