Today, the Senate will hear from Trump’s nominee to be the Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Aurelia Skipwith, a former employee of agrochemical corporation Monsanto.
“Skipwith has a history of working with big-time special interests like Monsanto. Outside of her days at the agrochemical corporation, her resume is surprisingly scant for someone that would be charged with managing America’s fish and wildlife. But like so many other Trump political appointees, Skipwith has already rubbed elbows with oil and gas interests and is poised to continue to curry favors for special interests at the expense of our public lands, fish and wildlife if she is confirmed,” said Jayson O’Neill, Deputy Director of the Western Values Project.
While Skipwith was working for Monsanto, the corporation lobbied Interior, Congress, and other federal agencies on the Endangered Species Act. In 2012, Skipwith even won an award from the agrochemical corporation for her work.
After Skipwith joined FWS as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Fish, Wildlife and Park, FWS decided to rescind a ban on farms within national wildlife refuges using bee-killing pesticides – a decision highly favorable to Monsanto. This wasn’t the only departmental action that would ostensibly benefit agrochemical corporations. Secretary Bernhardt is under investigation by Interior’s Inspector General for his role in suppressing a scientific assessment on the impacts of pesticides on endangered and threatened species.
According to her publically released calendars, Skipwith has been deeply involved in the administration’s rollback of habitat protections for the imperiled sage grouse and spoke at the oil and gas association Independent Petroleum Association of America’s (IPAA) regulators’ forum. The IPAA is a former client of Secretary Bernhardt’s whose political director was caught on tape laughing about the connections and access they have within the Trump administration.
In July 2017, Skipwith sent memos to the National Park Service and FWS requesting they review rules that prevented hunters from killing bears and wolves using extreme techniques, like “baiting the animals with greasy doughnuts, ambushing mothers with pups in dens and shooting animals from boats while the bears are swimming.”
Skipwith’s qualifications for the nomination have been called into question, given that her resume offers no previous experience working within FWS, aside from her work as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks over the last two years within the Trump administration. She was originally nominated under the tenure of former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke – who ran in the same circles as Skipwith’s then-fiance. Recently, 27 former FWS employees united in opposition to her nomination, critiquing her background and experience.
Her nomination was celebrated by both scandal-ridden Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who resigned in disgrace in late-2018, as well as current conflict-ridden Interior Secretary David Bernhardt. Her original nomination died at the end of the previous Congress, but she was renominated for the same position on July 17, 2019.