Wallace sails though Senate hearings on nomination

By Laura Bies

Elk (Cervus canadensis) cross the Snake River in Grand Teton National Park, where Wallace worked as a seasonal ranger early in his career. ©Diana Robinson

Robert Wallace, the nominee for Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks at the Department of the Interior, appeared before two Senate committees last week, both of which showed support. Senate confirmation is required for this policy-level position, which has not had a permanent appointee since the start of the Trump administration.

On Tuesday, the Environment and Public Works Committee met to consider Wallace’s nomination. In the hearing, which lasted just over an hour, many Senators on the committee expressed support for Wallace and indicated their inclination to vote in favor of his appointment. His brief written testimony offered information about his background — from working as a seasonal ranger at Grand Teton National Park to his time on Capitol Hill — but stopped short of addressing specific policy issues.

During the hearing, Senators’ questions covered many issues. When Sen. Carper, D-Del. asked about climate change, Wallace replied, “I do agree that climate change is an issue and that humans have a very important role in that situation.” In discussing the challenges faced by conservation and how he would approach them, he also spoke about conservation successes such bald eagles and grizzly bears.

The next day, Wallace appeared before the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. In a similarly brief and positive hearing, he again fielded questions from Senators and expressed a willingness to work together. Wallace addressed the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and said he was fully committed to securing adequate LWCF funding. He also spoke to ongoing challenges with wildfires and forest management, specifically in the context of climate change.

In addition to widespread support in the Senate, Wallace’s nomination also has the backing of conservation organizations such as Ducks Unlimited. Several organizations, including the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, reached out to lawmakers via letter to indicated their support for Wallace. His nomination is expected to move swiftly to a full Senate vote.

Last week, the Senate finally confirmed Susan Combs for Interior’s Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget position. She was first nominated in July 2017, and has been in an acting capacity at Interior since then.

Other key leadership positions within the Department of Interior are still empty, including U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director and Director of the National Park Service, the two agencies Wallace would oversee if confirmed. Aurelia Skipwith was nominated for the position in Oct. 2018, but her nomination was not acted on by the previous Congress, and she has not been re-nominated by the president in this Congress

Laura BiesLaura Bies is a government relations contractor and freelance writer for The Wildlife Society. She has a B.S. in Environmental Science and a law degree from George Washington University. Laura has worked with The Wildlife Society since 2005. Read more of Laura's articles.

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