Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Endangered Species History Precedes Cabinet Contender

By Tiffany Stecker

A contender for Trump administration posts carries a reputation on endangered species and pesticide issues in her home state of Texas—a history that has earned praise from industry leaders and pans from environmentalists, who say the free-market approach to conservation puts rare species at risk. Susan Combs, who served both as Texas agricultural commissioner and state comptroller under Republican Govs. George W. Bush and Rick Perry, has been under consideration for agriculture secretary under President-elect Donald Trump. Recent media reports indicate that former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue (R ) is the front-runner for that position, and Trump has yet to announce his decision. Combs could still be considered for other posts at USDA or elsewhere in the executive branch, sources say. Combs, who met with Trump on Dec. 30 at his Mar-al-Lago estate in Florida, played a key role in bringing endangered species issues under the authority of the state comptroller’s office. As head of the agency, Combs led the charge to develop the Texas Conservation Plan, an effort to avoid listing the dunes sagebrush lizard under the Endangered Species Act—a move that would have required landowners to take on measures to protect habitat for the sand-dwelling reptile. The plan focused heavily on voluntary conservation measures taken on by oil and gas drillers and other private landowners in the Permian basin, relying on a mechanism in which landowners commit to maintaining habitat in exchange for protection from land-use restrictions if a species is ever listed...more

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