Trump’s Pick for Head of Wildlife Service Criticized for Past Controversies
Susan Combs, the acting assistant secretary responsible for overseeing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was revealed to have cited the Endangered Species Act to argue against a steel transmission line from being built on her property despite frequently attacking the law during her time as a public official.
When the Rio Grande Electric Cooperative tried to build the transmission line across Combs’ property 30 years ago, Combs joined with other nearby property owners and environmentalist organizations like the Sierra Club to argue that the project would disturb local endangered species.
Over the years, however, Combs has been known to be a vocal opponent of the Endangered Species Act, which was signed into law in 1973 and mostly administered by the Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency that Combs will soon head.
As a state legislator in the Texas House of Representatives, she supported legislation that prohibited wildlife officials from gathering data on endangered species from private lands while also seeking to block the state from sharing data with the Fish and Wildlife Service.
Combs, as state comptroller, also successfully blocked the addition of the dune sagebrush lizard to the federal list of endangered species on the grounds that it would harm Texas landowners. She also later unsuccessfully petitioned the Wildlife Service to remove the golden-cheeked warbler from the endangered species list on the grounds that the agency’s study was flawed.
Susan Combs was named as an acting assistant secretary of the Department of the Interior for fish, wildlife and parks last month and is responsible for both the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The former comptroller and agricultural commissioner of Texas was previously nominated for the position of assistant secretary of the Department of the Interior’s Office of Policy, Management and Budget, but the nomination has been held up in the Senate. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee had previously confirmed her in a vote along partisan line, but an official vote by the Senate has yet to happen.
The appointment of Combs to the position of an acting assistant secretary did not need a confirmation hearing and vote from the Senate, and was confirmed by Ryan Zinke, the Secretary of the Interior.
Combs was also previously thought to be a strong contender for the position of Secretary of Agriculture due to her tenure as Texas’ agricultural commissioner. However, despite meeting with the Trump Administration’s transition team multiple times, the position was ultimately given to Sonny Perdue, the former governor of Georgia.
Her previous nomination as as assistant secretary of the Department of the Interior was adamantly opposed by Democrats and conservation organizations. During the confirmation process, over 70 conservation and environmental protection organizations signed a letter to the Senate indicating their opposition, claiming that she often used her public positions to oppose wildlife protection for the interests of energy companies.