Jul 012011

The Senate finally voted to confirm Dan Ashe as the next director of the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Ashe's confirmation had been delayed by Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), who wanted to see action on offshore permitting before releasing a "hold" he had put on Ashe's nomination.

Vitter released his hold June 1 "after receiving word that the department has issued its fifteenth deepwater exploration well permit and has responded to his other previous requests for answers on the permitting process."

DOI Secretary Ken Salazar said he was "excited to work with [Ashe] to foster innovative science-driven conservation programs and policies to benefit our nation’s fish and wildlife and its habitat.”

Here's the full text of the department's press release:

Salazar Applauds Senate Confirmation of Daniel M. Ashe as New Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

WASHINGTON -- Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today praised the U.S. Senate’s confirmation of Daniel M. Ashe as the 16th Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Ashe, a career employee of the agency, will assume his duties immediately.

"Dan Ashe has served with distinction and integrity in the Fish and Wildlife Service for more than 15 years. He has worked tirelessly to prepare the Service to meet the resource challenges of the 21st century, and his leadership and vision have never been more necessary," said Salazar. "I’m excited to work with him to foster innovative science-driven conservation programs and policies to benefit our nation’s fish and wildlife and its habitat."

On December 3, President Obama formally nominated Ashe, who has served as the service’s deputy director for policy since 2009, to be the agency’s director. As deputy director, Ashe developed policy and guidance to support and promote program development and fulfill the service’s mission.

"I’m humbled by the trust that the Secretary and the President have placed in me, and most of all, by the responsibility of leading the finest wildlife conservation organization in the world," Ashe said. "As director, I will strive to create an atmosphere where we can bring to bear our collective imagination, our tenacity, and our commitment to public service to address today’s challenges to the future of our nation’s fish and wildlife heritage."

During his tenure with the service, Ashe has helped to craft the strategy that will guide the agency’s efforts to deal with the effects of a changing climate. That plan outlined interagency cooperative efforts across landscapes as the most effective way to help fish and wildlife populations adapt to rapidly changing environmental conditions. Ashe also been a leader in the development of the agency’s Landscape Conservation Cooperatives, which are intended to leverage resources and strategically target science to inform conservation decisions and actions.

President Obama awarded Ashe a Presidential Rank Distinguished Service Award in recognition of his outstanding service.

Prior to being named deputy director, Ashe served as the science advisor to the service’s director from 2003-2009, providing leadership on science policy and scientific applications to resource management.

Ashe served as the chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System from 1998 to 2003, directing operation and management of the 150 million-acre system, and the service’s land acquisition program.

From 1995 to 1998, he served as the Fish and Wildlife Service’s assistant director for external affairs, where he directed the agency’s programs in legislative, public, and Native American affairs, research coordination, and state grants-in-aid.

Prior to joining the Service, Ashe served as a member of the professional staff of the former Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1982 until 1995.

Ashe was born and spent his childhood in Atlanta, Georgia, where his father began his 37-year career with the service. Much of Ashe’s childhood was spent on national wildlife refuges and fish hatcheries in the Southeast, where he learned to band birds, fish, hunt and enjoy the outdoors.

He earned a graduate degree in Marine Affairs from the University of Washington, where he studied under a fellowship from the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation. He is very active in local civic affairs in Montgomery County, Maryland, where he and his family reside. He is an avid waterfowl hunter, angler and tennis player.

Jul 012011

U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan has ruled that the polar bear should remain "threatened" under the ESA.

In issuing his opinion and order, Sullivan rejected claims of both environmental groups and hunting groups. The former wanted an uplisting to endangered, the latter wanted removal of Ursus maritimus from the list altogether. Here's Sullivan, near the beginning of his 116-page opinion:

In the Court’s opinion, plaintiffs’ challenges amount to nothing more than competing views about policy and science.  Some plaintiffs in this case believe that the Service went too far in protecting the polar bear; others contend that the Service did not go far enough.  According to some plaintiffs, mainstream climate science shows that the polar bear is already irretrievably headed toward extinction throughout its range.  According to others, climate science is too uncertain to support any reliable predictions about the future of polar bears.  However, this Court is not empowered to choose among these competing views.

The judge also said this:

In view of these exhaustive administrative proceedings, the Court is keenly aware that this is exactly the kind of decisionmaking process in which its role is strictly circumscribed.  Indeed, it is not this Court’s role to determine, based on its independent assessment of the scientific evidence, whether the agency could have reached a different conclusion with regard to the listing of the polar bear.  Rather, as mandated by the Supreme Court and by this Circuit, the full extent of the Court’s authority in this case is to determine whether the agency’s decision-making process and its ultimate decision to list the polar bear as a threatened species satisfy certain minimal standards of rationality based upon the evidence before the agency at that time.

Some news reports characterized the decision as a defeat for environmental groups, but if the presence of press releases is any indication, the environmental community is happier about the outcome than Safari Club International (SCI), the state of Alaska, and other plaintiffs who wanted the bear off the list. CBD, Sierra Club and NRDC, for example, hailed the decision. SCI, however, has not issued any public statement.

Some more links: