Wyoming native Robert Wallace, a former energy lobbyist, is one step closer to a post within the Trump administration as assistant secretary of the U.S. Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department.
Wallace, a Teton County resident who was raised in Evanston, testified Tuesday before the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works, which is chaired by Sen. John Barrasso. Wallace was introduced to the committee by Sen. Mike Enzi, who said there was “no better choice” to be named to the agency, which oversees both the National Park Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service.
If confirmed, Wallace – a former chief of staff to both late U.S. Sen. Malcolm Wallop and former Gov. Jim Geringer – would add a perspective to the current administration that has been lacking from the department’s executive staff in recent years.
The United States Fish and Wildlife Service has not had a director hailing from the Rocky Mountains since Teton County native and former Wyoming state legislator John Turner, who was appointed to the post by George H.W. Bush’s administration in 1989, and former Grand Teton National Park Superintendent David Vela, who was nominated to be director of the National Park Service only to later accept a position as the agency’s acting deputy director of operations.
Wallace was the first name floated with a Wyoming connection since Robert Stanton – a seasonal employee at Grand Teton in the 1960s – who served as NPS director during the Clinton administration.
There currently is not a president-nominated or Senate-confirmed director for either the Fish & Wildlife Service or the National Park Service.
Wallace’s experience on Capitol Hill is extensive. He has served as a staffer for both the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and has been involved in historic events including the roll out of the Alaska Lands Act, the Three Mile Island nuclear accident and the Exxon Valdez oil spill, among others.
He also ran an unsuccessful campaign for the U.S. House of Representatives in 1994, during which he climbed Devils Tower to bring attention to a lack of resources being allocated by Congress to existing national parks and monuments.
Wallace’s testimony was largely informed by his experiences in Wyoming. He discussed invasive species by drawing on the legacy of problems caused by cutthroat trout management in Yellowstone National Park, and he highlighted concerns around fire management in the national parks, which initially led him to volunteer for Wallop’s Senate campaign and, eventually, a career in Washington D.C.
Wallace currently serves as director of the Upper Green River Conservancy, which works to protect core sage grouse habitat in southwestern Wyoming.
“Today, I work on the frontiers of the Endangered Species Act in southwestern Wyoming, bringing ranchers, regulators, conservationists, and industry leaders together to protect large scale habitats for the greater sage grouse while also removing barriers to multiple use,” he said in his opening statement. “Along the way I’ve learned so much — especially that no one ever really wins by winning everything, that bipartisan solutions are always the lasting ones, and the importance of recruiting good people and trusting them to do big jobs.”
In the hearing, Wallace was questioned about invasive species management and climate change’s role in protecting endangered species, which he expressed concerns about in an interview with Wyoming PBS several years ago. He also spoke on increasing access to public lands in cooperation with the Department of the Interior.
His nomination now proceeds to the full Senate for confirmation.