Animal rights and conservation advocates are outraged over President Donald Trump's nominee to head the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS)—Aurelia Skipwith, a former executive at agrochemical giant Monsanto—warning that she will continue the administration's ongoing efforts "to dismantle protections for wildlife, national parks, and monuments."
"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."
—Brett Hartl, CBD
A biologist and lawyer, Skipwith worked (pdf) for Monsanto for six years before taking positions with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), then the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). She has been with the Interior Department since Secretary Ryan Zinke appointed her to serve as the deputy assistant secretary for fish, wildlife, and parks last year.
"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," noted Brett Hartl of the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD). "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."
— Western Priorities (@WstrnPriorities) October 23, 2018
Skipwith, in a statement, expressed pride in her role implementing the Trump administration and Zinke's agenda, and vowed to achieve "a conservation legacy second only to President Teddy Roosevelt."
Hartl, meanwhile, pointed out: "Putting unqualified ideological fanatics into positions of power continues to be the Trump administration's game plan. These people have utterly no compunction or shame about destroying the very agencies they're being appointed to lead."
During her time at the FWS, the agency has scaled back protections ensured by the Endangered Species Act (ESA), catered to the interests of pesticide and fossil fuel companies, and carved up a pair of national monuments in Utah—Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante—designated by Trump's Democratic predecessors.
Characterizing Skipwith as "a darling of corporate special interests," Chris Saeger, executive director of Western Values Project, said her nomination "is business as usual for an administration that has sought to reward its allies at the expense of public lands and wildlife."
There has not been a Senate-confirmed head of the FWS—an agency of the Interior Department—since Trump took office. Deputy director Greg Sheehan, a former Utah official, was overseeing the service until August, when he stepped down. According to the Associated Press, "Zinke tried to make Sheehan acting director, but Sheehan was barred from that role because he did not have a required science degree."
Skipwith's nomination to lead the FWS is subject to a Senate vote. Concluding that she "is utterly unqualified" to run the agency, Hartl added, "The Senate should ask Skipwith hard questions about her tenure at the service, because confirming her would be a travesty for our nation's wildlife."