The Senate Environment & Public Works (EPW) Committee convened for a hearing on February 5 focused on “Oversight of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS).” Rob Wallace, Assistant Secretary for Fish & Wildlife & Parks at the Department of the Interior provided testimony and answered questions from several Senators.
Chairman John Barrasso (R – WY) delivered opening remarks and welcomed the opportunity to “learn more about what the service is doing to strike the proper balance between wildlife conservation, habitat management, and use of our public lands.” Barrasso also expressed high praise for the work the FWS is doing under the Trump Administration, citing multiple examples of the administrations work to implement policies that benefit our nations wildlife. “The Trump administration also recognizes the important role that sportsmen and women play in wildlife management and conservation” said Barrasso, crediting the expansion of hunting and fishing access to 1.4 million additional acres of land and water managed through the National Wildlife Refuge System.
With expanded recreational access to National Wildlife Refuges comes a need for an increased presence of law enforcement said the Committee’s ranking member, Senator Tom Carper (D – DE) and he said the Committee hopes to work with the FWS to ensure adequate law enforcement presence at refuges across the country.
Assistant Secretary Wallace provided additional updates on the Service’s critical partnerships with state and tribal agencies and private landowners and he reaffirmed the importance of state wildlife management authority and recognized that “states are good stewards of our natural resources and practice sound management of fish and wildlife while allowing appropriate opportunities for citizens to enjoy public resources.”
A major portion of the hearing also focused on the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and Assistant Secretary Wallace reiterated the FWS’s commitment to preventing extinction and achieving recovery of species listed under the ESA as one of the FWS’s highest priorities. “The Fish and Wildlife Service is committed to the recovery of listed species and to returning management of those species to our state and tribal partners once they no longer require ESA protections” said Wallace.
The FWS’s commitment to limiting the spread of invasive species was covered, as was the agencies pledge to combat wildlife trafficking on a global level. According to Wallace the Service’s Office of Law Enforcement is further leveraging their skill and technical expertise to combat wildlife trafficking. Wallace provided updates on strengthening partnerships with the State Department and the Department of Justice to expand regional wildlife law enforcement units at American embassies around the world.
Safari Club International applauds the fantastic work the FWS is undertaking and would like to thank the Senate EPW Committee for their commitment to championing policies that benefit wildlife and sportsmen and women across the country. SCI will continue to work with members of Congress, the FWS, and our partners to continue prioritizing hunting and fishing access on National Wildlife Refuges, strengthening state wildlife management authority, improving the implementation and efficiency of the Endangered Species Act, and combatting illegal wildlife trafficking.