16 JULY 1997

Good morning Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee. It is a great honor to be nominated by President Clinton as Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Nation's premier Federal fish and wildlife conservation agency, and to have that nomination considered by this committee. It is also a privilege, as a career civil servant, to be considered for this position from within the ranks of the agency.

I have met with many of you over the past few days and found that we have significant common beliefs in the importance of conserving our natural heritage. If I am confirmed, I look forward to continuing to work together with all of you over the next few years, focusing on our common commitment to fish and wildlife conservation.

I care deeply about the work we do at the Fish and Wildlife Service and I am committed to our mission to conserve, protect, and enhance fish and wildlife and their habitats. I am proud of the job we do. Our 7,000 employees are dedicated, motivated, and professional. They represent the best tradition of public service. Together, we continue to work to protect that delicate balance of living in association with our natural environment.

Love of nature and the outdoors has been a major force in my life since I was a small child. I grew up in the military, moving on average every year and a half. That certainly brought many challenges, but it also gave me opportunities to see many areas of the United States. I fondly remember exploring spectacular open spaces on horseback, seeing new birds and other wildlife, and discovering unique habitats.

My passion for nature and wildlife eventually led me into the field of wildlife biology. My studies ranged from peregrine falcon reintroductions in Northern Maryland to my graduate thesis that involved working with hunters to evaluate white-tailed deer populations to ensure optimum herd density. I learned first hand the role of hunting as an effective wildlife management tool, and 1 share with hunters, anglers, and other outdoor enthusiasts an appreciation of wildlife that comes from long hours in the field observing nature.

I even married a wildlife biologist. The ceremony took place on Matagorda Island National Wildlife Refuge, where my husband Jim was the refuge manager. Jim is a nature photographer and writer and we spend all available free time exploring national wildlife refuges, national parks, and forests looking for new places to observe nature and, of course, new scenes to capture on film.

During my eight years with the Fish and Wildlife Service, I have been part of an agency undergoing significant change. Though the Service remains committed to its statutory obligations and mandates like the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Endangered Species Act, I believe, as others do, that we need to continue to look for new and innovative ways to achieve species and habitat conservation. Most importantly, we have greatly expanded our work with partners outside the Service -- whether they are State wildlife agencies, local governments, sportsmen's organizations, conservation groups, corporations, or individual private citizens.

In the course of this transformation, the Service is learning to assume many different roles, depending on the situation. Our State, Federal, Tribal, and private partners have great capabilities to provide leadership and assistance in the management and recovery of natural resources. We recognize this and we are refining our ability to be a team player -- knowing when to lead, when to follow, or when to assist to accomplish common goals. And I expect this process to continue.

I realize that many folks may associate me with endangered species programs. Although my years with the Service have focused primarily on habitat restoration, environmental contaminants, and endangered species conservation, my early years as a resource professional were spent working for the National Guard Bureau and the Army as a wildlife biologist addressing land use management and environmental planning issues. I was responsible for developing and implementing fish and wildlife conservation practices Army-wide; emphasizing integration of wildlife management activities with the military mission. I spent much of my time in the field visiting military installations throughout the country, working to balance wildlife conservation needs with military readiness objectives. I also developed land management programs to ensure that military lands continued to support both wildlife conservation and military training objectives. I worked hard with military trainers and engineers, as well as with other Federal agencies and conservation organizations, to ensure neither military training nor wildlife habitat requirements were compromised. From these experiences early in my career, I learned about the importance of listening to all sides, effectively communicating specific needs, and working collaboratively with others to achieve multiple goals on lands supporting competing demands.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is widely recognized as the national and international leader in wildlife conservation, and, if confirmed, I will work to ensure that hard-earned reputation is maintained and enhanced. Again, to do this, an ever-growing emphasis on partnerships and looking at the big picture is essential. With more than 1,100 species on the list of endangered and threatened species, I know too well the feeling of frustration and failure associated with each new addition to the list. There is no way the Service or any other public agency can single-handedly conserve our Nation's fish and wildlife resources. We must work hard to leverage our own resources and expertise with those of others to effect change on the ground.

Since transferring to the Fish and Wildlife Service in 1989, I have spent considerable time looking for new ways to achieve wetlands conservation, recover declining species, restore degraded habitats, and address the increasing concern about the effect of environmental contaminants on our natural resources. I have worked in partnership with folks like the ranchers in southern Arizona and New Mexico through the Malpai Borderlands Group; private landowners on Hawaii's Big Island working to prevent the extinction of the Hawaiian crow while preserving the integrity of their commercial farming and ranching operations; and the States of Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky to balance the economic needs of the coal mining industry with wildlife conservation. Again, these experiences reinforced in me the value and importance of partnerships. Each of these partnerships was characterized by genuine trust, cooperation, mutual respect, and a desire for economic and environmental security. I believe the future of fish and wildlife conservation depends on collaborative partnerships such as these.

The Service also must continue our concerted efforts to reach out to the public and to important constituencies with a stake in our fish and wildlife resources. I have participated in numerous partnership efforts and firmly believe that involving stakeholders and other agency expertise early on reaps long-term benefits for fish and wildlife resources and the economy. As the Service gains experience in this way of doing business, I believe we will realize the expanded skills that we all must master to learn to listen more actively, to work as a team player, to be open-minded, and to be prepared to take whatever approach is most effective in accomplishing the task.

I am convinced that as people better understand the connection between ecosystem health and quality of life, our success at managing for ecosystems and ensuring economic viability will continue to increase. The Service needs to communicate to others the fundamental message that the fate of wildlife and humans alike is linked to the well-being of the environment around us.

The Service is dedicated to addressing change, not only in how we explore new ways to conserve and manage our wildlife resources, but also in recognizing the importance of a workforce reflective of our Nation's citizenry. Increasing the diversity of our workforce is an important element in improving our efforts to develop unique and innovative approaches and strategies for wildlife conservation. A skilled workforce, diverse in cultures, experiences, and ideas is equipped to build upon traditional and successful approaches by identifying new and fresh ideas for addressing conservation issues. The richness of this experience is an asset, and its absence is an enormous liability. I believe I can help the Service continue to work towards its goal of a diverse and skilled workforce.

Americans are passionate about wildlife, and that passion fuels the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This is an exciting time to be at the helm of this agency. If confirmed as Director, I look forward with great enthusiasm and excitement to the challenge of leading an agency dedicated to conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish and wildlife and their habitats for the continuing benefit and enjoyment of the American people. I pledge to work with you, the American public, other Federal, State, Tribal, and private entities, and with the outstanding employees of the Service to continue protecting our Nation's natural heritage for generations to come.

Senators, thank you again for the honor of your consideration.