Good morning. We are here today to consider the nomination of Thomas Strickland for Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks at the Department of Interior.
The Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks at the Department of Interior is responsible for overseeing many important programs at the Department. Most notable to this Committee is the management of the US Fish and Wildlife Services and the implementation of the Endangered Species Act.
Mr. Strickland, I am very troubled by the Service’s recent congressional mandate to revise and reissue ESA rules concerning the listing of the polar bear and modifications to the Section 7 consultation process. My concern is not that reasonable minds disagree about whether these are good rules or about the Department’s authority to properly revisit the rules. Rather, I am appalled that Congress has given the Services the unusual authority to waive all requirements for public input and allowances for legal objections under the Administrative Procedures Act while dictating that these rules be revised within what is now less than 60 days.
Given the Majority’s constant complaints to the last Administration about the lack of process, it is at the very least ironic they would be so bold as to willfully set aside rules protecting public input and transparency. Should you be confirmed, I strongly urge you to use your authority to ensure that guarantees of public process in the APA are followed when revising the polar bear and consultation rules. Anything less will be taken as an abdication of this Administration’s commitment to transparency and integrity. More importantly, it will certainly start you off on the wrong foot with the Republicans on this Committee.
Aside from the controversies associated with ESA, the Fish and Wildlife Service does a great deal of good. One of the programs I am particularly interested in is the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, which conserves habitat by leveraging federal funds through voluntary private landowner participation. I look forward to working with you on this and other issues.
I am anxious to hearing your perspectives on the issues that will be raised today. Most importantly, I welcome you to the Committee.
I am sorry that Jon Cannon is not here today. I was surprised to learn about his decision to remove his name from consideration to be Deputy Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. As part of the oversight process, my staff met with Mr. Cannon and questioned him about grants received by a foundation on which he was a board member. My staff made it clear that though the organization committed serious missteps in managing federal grants, it did not warrant opposition to Mr. Cannon’s nomination. I have long made EPA grant oversight a priority, and I am looking forward to working with the next nominee to be Deputy Administrator.