FWS update: Director Skipwith addresses WSGA convention attendees
The general session of the 2020 Wyoming Cattle Industry Convention and Trade Show, hosted by the Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA), invited U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (FWS) Director Aurelia Skipwith to address attendees in Rock Springs Aug. 25. Skipwith took over the position in 2019.
Skipwith shared when she was growing up, her grandfather taught her about taking care of the land. Today, she said, that’s what conservation is all about.
Cooperation with private landowners
“We cannot secure the future of our native wildlife and habitat without engaging and accommodating the needs of people and the communities who share the landscape,” said Skipwith. “Now, more than ever, the challenges we face in conserving our nation’s wildlife heritage requires an unprecedented level of cooperation.”
Skipwith shared the cooperation needs to be among federal agencies, state agencies, tribes and partner organizations. She also noted agencies must work in partnership with private landowners and local communities.
“More than 60 percent of the listed threatened and endangered species are on private lands,” Skipwith noted. “If we don’t work with private landowners, the folks who make their living off the land, there is no way for us to be able to reach recovery for these species.”
“I constantly remind folks in FWS that people live off of their land to support their families and their communities. A lot of folks in D.C. seem to lose sight of that,” Skipwith noted. “President Trump has made supporting working families a priority for his administration and it has been my responsibility to make sure our agency’s decisions affecting citizens and businesses are based on strong science, the rule of the law, and it must be intertwined with common sense.”
Importance of hunters and anglers
“The other thing I see often, that tires me over and over again, is the same codgering of environmental groups who are consistently filing lawsuits to halt the progress of the American people and federal agencies,” said Skipwith. “These lawsuits do nothing but waste tax payer dollars, make law firms rich and fund the staff of liberal extreme organizations who do nothing to help the land or the wildlife they claim to care about conserving.”
When an endangered or threatened species is recovered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), Skipwith believes there should be a celebration.
“Sadly, celebration is not the case,” Skipwith noted. “Once again, the answer is another lawsuit.”
Skipwith explained the FWS understands hunting and fishing play an integral role in the success of the country’s conservation model. The model is based on three principals – the fish and wildlife belong to all Americans, the populations need to be sustained for future generations to enjoy and private landowners are key.
“Contrary to what some extreme liberal organizations believe, hunters and anglers are among our largest and most dedicated advocates for wildlife conservation,” said Skipwith. “Last year, public lands hosted more than 59 million visitors, and their spending generated more than $3 billion in sales for local economies.”
Honoring Senator Barrasso
Skipwith honored Sen. Barrasso (R-WY) with the FWS Director’s Conservation award during the session for his work in creating bipartisan legislation with a focus on wildlife conservation. Most recently, he introduced America’s Conservation Enhancement (ACE) Act, which addresses threats against wildlife and protects livestock, according to Skipwith.
“In 2019, Sen. Barrasso also introduced the Wildlife Innovation and Longevity Driver Act to promote innovation in technology to protect threatened wildlife by controlling invasive species,” Skipwith explained. “He also reauthorized the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, which has worked with private landowners to restore and improve wildlife habitats and efforts to combat invasive species. For Barrasso’s work in the Senate and to ensure protection of our nation’s wildlife, I am proud to award him with the FWS Director’s Conservation Award.”
“I learned from my grandfather if we didn’t grow it, catch it or kill it, we didn’t eat it,” Skipwith said. “Back then, I didn’t know doing the right thing was about taking care of the land. But now, I know, if we take care of the land, the land will take care of us.”
Averi Hales is the editor for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.