Energy & Environment

Trump’s pick to oversee wildlife policy has history of opposing Endangered Species Act


A new political appointee picked by President Trump to oversee wildlife and parks at the Interior Department has a history of opposing endangered species protections.

Susan Combs, who was recently appointed by Trump as acting assistant secretary for fish, wildlife and parks, has in the past compared the endangered species listings to “incoming Scud missiles.”

In her previous post as Texas comptroller, Combs played a key role in wresting control of the endangered species program from the state’s Parks and Wildlife Department, the Texas Observer reported.


While leading the office, Combs viewed endangered species protections as federal overreach and vowed to protect business interests thwarted by certain endangered species listings, according to the Observer.

Among those species listed at the time were a number of freshwater mussels species, whose status as endangered species could cause major headaches for a number of petrochemical companies on the Gulf Coast, including Dow Chemical.

In 2015, Combs worked to remove endangered protections for the golden-cheeked warbler, whose listing she argued impaired military readiness, the Austin American-Statesman reported.

The Texas Statesman first reported her appointment last week.

Combs was originally nominated in July as Interior’s assistant secretary for policy, management, and budget, but her confirmation has so far been stalled in the Senate for a number of reasons.

Heather Swift, an Interior spokeswoman, said the goal is to still get Combs into that role.

Of course we would rather have her confirmed and in her intended position as Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget but until then, she will serve in an acting capacity at Fish and Wildlife and Parks,” Swift said.

Nevertheless, Swift called Combs “highly qualified” and said the administration was “more than confident that she will be an effective manager at FWP while she patiently awaits her senate vote.”

Last year, a number of congressional Republicans working closely with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke considered a number of bills that would weaken Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections. The bills’ effects would include allowing the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to use economic costs to deny listing a species as threatened and remove the gray wolf from the endangered list.

In December, FWS announced that it was working on changes to the ESA, stating that it “will revise the regulations … for listing endangered and threatened species and for designation of critical habitat.” 

Tags Donald Trump Endangered Species Act Interior Department Ryan Zinke

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