Five Questions Every Hunter Should Ask Assistant Secretary of Fish, Wildlife and Parks Nominee Shannon Estenoz

As the United States Senate continues to consider nominations to lead departments and agencies in the Biden Administration, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works will meet on Wednesday, May 12th at 10:00 AM to consider the nomination of Shannon Estenoz to be the Assistant Secretary of Fish and Wildlife and Parks of Department the Interior (DOI).

As the potential political appointee tasked with overseeing both the National Park Service and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Estenoz will have a direct role in shaping policy for sportsmen and women on National Wildlife Refuges and National Park Service lands across the country.

Here are five questions every hunter should be asking Shannon Estenoz.

Question 1: “Will you work with Secretary Haaland to commit to a “no-net-loss” policy for hunting and fishing access on public lands?”

Background: During the Senate confirmation hearing of Secretary Deb Haaland, she would not commit to a “no-net-loss” policy, despite direct questions from Senator Steve Daines (MT-R) and urging from Safari Club International.  Since that time, the DOI is considering the closure of over 40 million acres of federal public lands in Alaska to non-subsistence hunting, but the proposal offers no evidence or justification of a conservation need for this closure, and Alaska’s Department of Fish and Game opposes the proposal. If confirmed, will Estenoz support this proposal despite the lack of evidence of a conservation need and the state agency’s opposition to it?

Question 2: “Will you work with Secretary Haaland and the Department of the Interior to commit to protecting individuals’ personal information from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), by directing DOI FOIA offices to consistently withhold personal information, as permitted by federal law, to protect the privacy rights of American citizens?”

Background: There have been numerous attempts by anti-hunting organizations to obtain personal information of sportsmen and women whose names are in USFWS records. The USFWS has an inconsistent record regarding the information disclosed in response to FOIA requests, especially related to the identities of international hunters and information relating to commercial importers. In some instances, information disclosed to FOIA requestors has been abused on social media and elsewhere to attack law-abiding hunters with commercial ruin and even threats. Federal courts have upheld the USFWS’ ability to withhold personal information from disclosure and faulted the USFWS for its inconsistent approach in determining what information it can legally withhold. Will Estenoz work to correct these inconsistencies and protect the privacy rights of law-abiding American citizens?

Question 3: “Will you work with Secretary Haaland and commit to keeping recent changes made to the Endangered Species Act intact to more closely implement Congress’ intent, while also celebrating conservation success stories like the recent delisting of the gray wolf?”

Background: The previous administration received praise from scientists and wildlife officials for amending Endangered Species Act regulations to clarify the criteria for delisting recovered species, like the Gray Wolf, subsequently freeing up resources that can be used to assist the recovery of endangered or threatened species.

Question 4: “President Biden’s Executive Actions to Tackle the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad, Create Jobs, and Restore Scientific Integrity Across Federal Government commits to the goal of conserving at least 30 percent of our lands and oceans by 2030. What is your baseline definition of “conserving” in this case? Do you recognize existing management levels/actions that currently afford protections? The executive order also launches a process for stakeholder engagement. Will you commit to providing sportsmen with an equitable voice in the stakeholder-engaged process?”

Background: As America’s original conservationists, the hunting and fishing community has proactively supported strategic efforts to conserve our nation’s terrestrial, freshwater, and marine ecosystems for more than a century.  Sportsmen and women deserve a seat at the table when policy proposals are debated about conserving lands and waters in the United States considering they are solely responsible for the funding that helps acquire and manage National Wildlife Refuges. Will Estenoz ensure a transparent and inclusive process for the 30×30 initiative?

Question 5: “If confirmed, you will oversee the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which is responsible for administering the import of sport-hunted trophies of African species. To meet the directives of the Executive Order on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities through the Federal Government, and to protect the rights of underserved indigenous and rural communities, how will you address the concerns of these range countries and ameliorate delays in approving import permits?”

Background: Range countries have repeatedly complained about delays in the USFWS approval of import permits, and how those delays are detrimentally impacting their national conservation strategies and rural community development programs. Yet the southern Africa countries with well-established sport-hunting programs currently protect the world’s largest populations of elephants, lions, leopards, rhinos, and many other species. These countries are clearly able to manage the species within their borders, but they depend on U.S. hunter-conservationists for financial support. These countries and their underserved communities have made their concerns known to the DOI.

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