Trump's latest Interior pick wins unexpected support from environmentalists

Trump's latest Interior pick wins unexpected support from environmentalists
© Courtesy Rob Wallace

President TrumpDonald John TrumpEsper sidesteps question on whether he aligns more with Mattis or Trump Warren embraces Thiel label: 'Good' As tensions escalate, US must intensify pressure on Iran and the IAEA MORE’s most recent Interior Department nominee is garnering support from an unexpected group: environmentalists.

Robert Wallace, nominated to help oversee the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service (NPS), is bucking the trend of opposition from green groups, even though he ticks several boxes that would otherwise draw a strong rebuke from environmentalists: He’s a Trump appointee, earns thousands of dollars from stock in the oil industry and spent nearly two decades as a lobbyist for General Electric Energy.

Wallace currently works as president of the Upper Green River Conservancy and as a partner at the investment firm i2Capital.

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The Wyoming native testified this week before the two Senate committees that oversee Interior.

In addition to words of praise from Republicans and some Democrats, several environmental groups said they plan to endorse Wallace, citing his background and their experience working with him. His work on protecting habitat for the sage-grouse also seems to have won over a number of green groups.

The National Park Conservation Association (NPCA), Ducks Unlimited and the National Wildlife Refuge Association all have or will endorse Wallace. Other groups are staying silent instead of opposing his nomination.

“In NPCA’s experience, Wallace understands the many diverse opinions surrounding national parks and has shown his commitment to inclusive community-based dialogue and solutions,” the association wrote in a letter to senators. “He has been a dedicated participant and leader in public lands and wildlife management and most recently has demonstrated his ability to bring diverse stakeholders together to preserve sage grouse habitat in Wyoming.”

In confirmed, Wallace would be the first assistant secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks since 2011.

Before his career as a lobbyist, Wallace worked for the National Park Service, both as a park ranger right out of college and later as a congressional liaison for NPS during the Reagan administration. He also worked as chief of staff for former Sen. Malcolm Wallop (R-Wyo.) and later as the Republican director of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

In both hearings, Wallace stressed his willingness to work in a bipartisan manner and improve the contentious relationship between the government and partners at the state, tribal, and local level who have a strong interest in federal land management.

“Partner is an easy word to say, but a hard word to implement,” he told senators Wednesday. “The federal government always shows up as the alpha, and that’s a model I will work to better equalize.”

Green groups have largely been at odds with Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency since Trump took office, flagging ethical issues among the top brass and bemoaning the number of former lobbyists employed at the agencies.

And not all environmental groups have high praise for Wallace.

“Just when you thought the Trump administration couldn’t possibly fill the swamp with any more lobbyists, they nominate another one whose former employer has business before Interior," Chris Saeger, executive director of the Western Values Project, said in a statement. "Following in ex-mega lobbyist turned-Interior Secretary [David] Bernhardt’s footsteps, Wallace would immediately be in a position to influence decisions that could benefit the special interests he used to work for.”

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and the Energy and Natural Resources Committee have yet to schedule votes on Wallace's nomination.