Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, August 3, 2017

Contact: Stephanie Kurose, (203) 524-0562,

Endangered Species Foe Combs Moves Closer to Interior Confirmation

Committee Votes for Anti-wildlife Zealot to Oversee Nation's Imperiled Animals

WASHINGTON— The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources today voted to approve President Trump's nomination of Susan Combs — an outspoken opponent of federal endangered species protections — as the Department of the Interior's assistant secretary for policy, management and budget. 

This powerful position within the Interior Department would allow her to undermine the implementation of the Endangered Species Act by controlling the purse strings of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“Combs has spent her career putting polluters and special interests ahead of the needs of our most endangered animals and plants,” said Stephanie Kurose, endangered species policy specialist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Senate is rubber-stamping a Trump appointee who wouldn't cross the street to save imperiled wildlife for a job that'll let her veto crucial environmental protections.”

As Texas state comptroller, Combs wrested control of the state's endangered species program from the Department of Parks and Wildlife to her office, which managed state fiscal and tax matters and did not have a single biologist. She then used her authority to vigorously oppose any Endangered Species Act protections, often teaming up with the oil and gas industry to do so. As a state representative in the 1990s, Combs passed a law designed to restrict the state from sharing data with the Fish and Wildlife Service —
data that might have been used to identify those species in need of critical lifesaving protections.

“Putting Susan Combs in control of the Interior Department's budget would be a death warrant for endangered species,” said Kurose. “Her disturbing record and extreme views simply disqualify her from running an agency whose mission she fundamentally disagrees with.”

More than 70 conservation organizations previously sent a letter to the committee, signed by groups ranging from Public Citizen to the California Native Plant Society, opposing Combs' nomination. The letter expressed support for the Endangered Species Act, which has saved more than 99 percent of species under its protection from extinction and put hundreds of species on a path to recovery.

Elsewhere in Interior, Secretary Ryan Zinke earned just a 3 percent rating from the League of Conservation Voters as a congressman and voted against protections for endangered species 100 percent of the time. And David Bernhardt — recently confirmed as Zinke's deputy secretary — has a history of fighting against federal protections for imperiled species and Americans' public lands and waters.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.3 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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