Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, December 12, 2019


Stephanie Kurose, (202) 849-8395,

Senate Confirms Unqualified Industry Shill to Run Fish and Wildlife Service

Skipwith Continues Trump Administration’s Unraveling of Key Agency for Addressing Extinction Crisis

WASHINGTON— The U.S. Senate voted largely along party lines today to confirm former Monsanto employee Aurelia Skipwith as director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency charged with protecting and recovering endangered animals and plants.

The confirmation breaks with decades of tradition established by presidential administrations of both parties in that Skipwith has neither education nor experience in fisheries and wildlife management. Under current U.S. law, the president cannot appoint a person to run the Service unless the person is “by reason of scientific education and experience, knowledgeable in the principles of fisheries and wildlife management.”

“In the midst of a mass extinction crisis, Senate Republicans just approved the most unqualified director in Fish and Wildlife Service history,” said Stephanie Kurose, an endangered species policy specialist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “They seem to have no qualms about helping this anti-environment administration do even more damage to our nation’s natural heritage.”

For the past two years, Skipwith has served as deputy assistant secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks at the Department of the Interior. During her tenure at the Department, Skipwith has repeatedly put the interests of the pesticide industry ahead of imperiled wildlife. In spring 2017 the Service scrapped the first nationwide biological reviews that assessed the impacts of pesticides on endangered species. In August 2018 it reversed a 2014 decision prohibiting bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides and genetically modified, pesticide-resistant crops on national wildlife refuges.

Skipwith was also instrumental in an effort to undermine safeguards for endangered wildlife in Appalachia, including the Guyandotte River and Big Sandy crayfish, to green-light mountaintop coal mines owned by political benefactors of the Trump administration. She was involved in efforts to weaken the Endangered Species Act and strip protection from many of our nation’s most vulnerable species, including the grizzly bear, American burying beetle, Mexican wolf and dunes sagebrush lizard.

“Skipwith’s abysmal record shows she’s ideologically opposed to the mission of the very agency she now leads,” said Kurose. “She’ll always put the interests of her industry friends ahead of protecting America’s wildlife. Her confirmation is a travesty.”

Earlier this week, 46 former Interior Department employees with a combined 1,075.5 years of experience spoke out against Skipwith’s confirmation. More than 40 conservation groups also urged the Senate to oppose her confirmation.

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The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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