As reported by the Austin American-Statesman, the Trump administration has picked Susan Combs, an ardent opponent of the Endangered Species Act 1973 (ESA), to oversee wildlife and parks at the Interior Department. She once compared proposed listings for the ESA to “incoming Scud missiles.”
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke picked Combs for the post of acting secretary for fish, wildlife, and parks. As noted by the Washington Post, she was given this role after an earlier nomination – as the Assistant Secretary for policy, management, and budget – received criticism from across the aisle in Congress, and was stalled.
Combs has a long history of opposing the Act, and has repeatedly crusaded to delist species on the ESA, arguing that their inclusion jeopardized economic growth. As uncovered by the American-Statesman in 2015, she once argued that bird protections impacted military training.
Her history reveals that she’s often completely ignored the advice of scientists, and has worked closely with fossil fuel industries to oppose the ESA whenever possible.
In her new role, Combs will have a considerable say over how the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is run and funded. That mean’s she’ll be able to influence the ESA itself to some degree – so should we be worried?
The ESA has long been a target of Republican (and sometimes Democratic) ire, who argue that it represents a costly example of federal overreach, and that those pesky animals get in the way of local economic development. The GOP, with the support of landowners and several resource-extracting industries, has been trying to get rid of the Act for decades.