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Ellen Paul

Skipwith advances towards USFWS top slot

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Yesterday (9/26) a Senate committee approved Skipwith’s nomination Wednesday in a party-line vote of 11-10. This vote came despite revelations that she has ties to the Westlands Water District, a political powerhouse with a history of chafing against Endangered Species Act regulations that can interfere with farmers’ demands for water in California. The Guardian reported that Skipwith’s fiance, Leo Giacometto, is a former lobbyist who worked on behalf of Westlands from 2005 to 2010 in his role as the founder of Gage International. Skipwith has said she was an “unpaid adviser” for Gage starting in 2013.

From the Guardian: "Jayson O’Neill, the deputy director of Western Values Project, a public lands watchdog group based in Montana, claimed that Skipwith’s resumé – she is a lawyer with a master’s degree in genetics – shows she is unqualified. He said David Bernhardt, Trump’s interior secretary, is hiring her for her “deep ties to the swamp and special interests”. Under 16 U.S.C. 742(b): No individual may be appointed as the Director unless he is, by reason of scientific education and experience, knowledgeable in the principles of fisheries and wildlife management." 

Interior, led by David Bernhardt who once sued the US government on behalf of Westlands, aiming to roll back protections for winter-run Chinook salmon in California. is currently working to loosen protections for imperiled fish in California, which would be a boon to Westlands and other irrigators who want to pull more water out of regional rivers and reservoirs. The rollback would likely harm endangered salmon, delta smelt, and other aquatic species in California. As the director of the FWS, Skipwith would be crucially placed to shape the outcome of those efforts.

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