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Republican Sen. Steve Daines will support the nomination of Shannon Estenoz, President Joe Biden’s choice to serve as the Department of Interior’s assistant secretary for fish and wildlife and parks, his office confirmed Thursday.
The Montana lawmaker, a member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, pointed to the nominee’s responses on the recovery of the grizzly bear, and on a controversial federal court decision that affects lynx habitat and forest management in his home state. Daines is the top Republican on the National Parks Subcommittee.
Daines was “encouraged” by Estenoz’s statements on “finding a path forward on Cottonwood, and her acknowledgment of the science that the grizzly bear has recovered in the Greater Yellowstone and Northern Continental Divide Ecosystems,” spokeswoman Katherine McKeogh said in an email.
A 2015 circuit court decision in Cottonwood Environmental Law Center v. U.S. Forest Service reaffirmed that the Forest Service must ensure its actions don’t harm endangered species at the programmatic and site-specific levels by consulting with the Fish and Wildlife Service. The case dealt with the habitat of the Canada lynx, which includes national forest land in Montana. Republicans and Democrats have argued that the Cottonwood decision has created bureaucratic hurdles that result in the Forest Service not being able to conduct proper forest management to prevent wildfires.
Estenoz said during her confirmation hearing this week that the Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have been talking about how to move forward on a proposed rule related to Cottonwood.
“There is some disagreement among the agencies about the way to move forward,” Estenoz told Daines. She said that if she is confirmed, she would “encourage that dialogue to continue until a resolution is found.”
Daines and Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) have previously introduced legislation that attempts to reverse the Cottonwood decision.
The Fish and Wildlife Service in March, after a five-year review, said the grizzly bear population in the lower 48 states remains “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act, despite some success in species recovery.
Estenoz is now Interior’s principal deputy assistant secretary for fish and wildlife and parks. Before coming to Interior, she was the chief operating officer of The Everglades Foundation, and has worked at the World Wildlife Fund and National Parks Conservation Association.
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