New leadership named for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

A green heron (Butorides virescens) appears at Pelican Island, the first National Wildlife Refuge. The National Wildlife Refuge System is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. ©USFWS

President Trump has nominated Aurelia Skipwith to be director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, hoping to fill a position that has been vacant since the start of his administration. In the same week, Margaret Everson was named the next principal deputy director for the agency.

Skipwith is currently the Interior Department’s deputy assistant secretary for fish, wildlife and parks. She has a law degree from the University of Kentucky, as well as an undergraduate degree in biology from Howard University and a master’s degree in animal science from Purdue University.

Before her position at Interior, Skipwith was co-founder and general counsel for AVC Global, which described itself as an “agricultural value chain platform that unites smallholder farmers with multinational buyers, and agronomy, business training, financial and input service providers to meet the growing demand for food.” Prior to that position, Skipwith worked at Monsanto as molecular analyst and sustainable agriculture partnership manager.

“If confirmed, I look forward to the opportunity to lead the Service in achieving a conservation legacy second only to President Teddy Roosevelt,” Skipwith said in a statement released by Interior. Skipwith would be the third female Service director and the first African American to hold the position.

Skipwith’s nomination must be confirmed by the Senate, which could take place after the upcoming elections, although recent Interior confirmations have often taken several months. For example, Susan Combs was nominated as assistant secretary in July 2017 and she has not yet been confirmed. David Vela was nominated as National Park Service Director in late August, but the Senate has not confirmed that appointment either. Any nominees not confirmed by the end of 2018 will have to be re-nominated next year when the new Congress convenes.

Margaret Everson, currently chief policy officer for Ducks Unlimited, will be the new principal deputy director of FWS. Greg Sheehan left that position in August.

Everson holds a law degree from Vermont Law School, as well as an undergraduate degree in biology from St. Francis College. Before her work with Ducks Unlimited, Everson was assistant attorney general of Kentucky and general counsel for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. She also worked for two years as counselor to then-FWS Director Dale Hall, as well as for four years in the Interior solicitor’s office.

Everson, whose position does not require Senate confirmation will start with the Service in mid-November.

Laura BiesLaura Bies is a government relations contractor and freelance writer for The Wildlife Society. She has a B.S. in Environmental Science and a law degree from George Washington University. Laura has worked with The Wildlife Society since 2005. Read more of Laura’s articles.

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