EPW Hearing Statement: The Nomination of Robert Wallace to be Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife, and Parks at the Department of the Interior

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held the hearing on the nomination of Robert Wallace to be Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife, and Parks at the Department of the Interior. Below is the opening statement of Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-Del.), as prepared for delivery:

“Mr. Wallace, thank you for appearing before our Committee this morning. We welcome you here today, along with your family, and we appreciate your willingness to serve in the role of Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks.

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service are two agencies that play critical roles in managing and protecting our nation’s most treasured natural resources and public lands. I am sure you agree, given your experience as a park ranger in the Grand Teton National Park.

“In Delaware, we are extremely proud of our two national wildlife refuges and one of our country’s newest national parks, the First State National Historical Park. Our refuges are home to threatened and endangered species, and people from all over the world travel to Delaware to visit these refuges, as well as our park.

“Overseeing these agencies and beloved public lands is no small task, but one that you seem prepared for and passionate about. I especially appreciated the statement in your testimony that ‘bipartisan solutions are always the lasting ones.’ I could not agree more, and I hope we will be able to count on you to bring that balanced approach to this Administration’s Department of the Interior.

“Unfortunately, the Department and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in particular have taken actions in the last two years that could jeopardize our nation’s wildlife, without bipartisan support from members of Congress.

“Specifically, the Administration has proposed regulations that could dramatically alter implementation of the Endangered Species Act, one of our nation’s most popular and effective environmental laws. These regulations could undermine the science that is supposed to drive species protection decisions. This Administration has also adopted an unprecedented legal opinion relative to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act – a stance that former top Fish and Wildlife Service officials from both Republican and Democratic administrations have vehemently opposed.

“What’s more, the Trump Administration has reassigned dozens of Department of Interior Senior Executive Service employees without good reasons, which is reportedly creating a culture of fear within the Department. Suppressing the expertise of career public servants is an injustice to the natural resources the Department is tasked with managing.

“All of these actions, along with a number of others, are deeply concerning. Mr. Wallace, as this Committee considers your nomination, I hope you will heed these concerns and clearly convey a willingness to moderate some of these troubling actions. I also hope we can work together to find bipartisan opportunities that support solid science and conservation.

“I believe tackling climate change is one such opportunity. Due to climate change, our treasured national parks and refuges in the West are increasingly beset by catastrophic fires, and worsening storms are damaging our coastal parks and refuges. Recently, the National Parks Conservation Association found that out of 417 parks surveyed, 96 percent face significant air quality problems. I am eager to learn more about how you will work to address these challenges. I believe that it is now more important than ever that we work together to make our parks and refuges more resilient to climate change, so that all Americans may have the opportunity to visit these places for many years to come.

“Mr. Wallace, you also possess a great deal of expertise in habitat conservation and mitigation. You and I have discussed your work in both Wyoming and Delaware on projects that means a great deal to each of us.

“Clearly, you understand the importance of mitigating negative impacts on our environment, and I believe that understanding provides another great opportunity for you to lead within the Department of the Interior. I look forward to hearing how you will utilize this expertise as Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks if confirmed.

“Right now, though, we need qualified leaders who are committed to safeguarding our natural resources, and I feel confident that you are up to the challenge. Thank you again for joining us here today. We look forward to hearing your testimony and to the conversation with you that follows.”