Climate change, invasive species, and the Endangered Species Act: My week on the Hill (Part 1)

I am now in my fifth week as a Congressional and Legislative Affairs (CLA) fellow for the USFWS. The transition has been difficult, I’m not going to lie. Knowing that I still have manuscripts that need to be written (though I did submit a couple this week) and not being able to work on them during the day is killing me. However, I am keeping busy in my new position and learning a lot…especially about politics.

(First a disclaimer. I am privy to a wise variety of “closed door” information. Obviously I cannot and will not share that here. So, everything that I will share is publicly available, you just need to know where to look.)

Last week the USFWS was directly involved in 4 hearings on Capitol Hill. The hearings concerned climate change adaptation, wildlife trafficking, the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and the Lacey Act (concerning invasive species). For all 4 hearings, the USFWS was asked to testify before the house or senate. What I saw is the reason why I wanted to do this fellowship. What did I learn? There are a lot of politics in science.

By design, I am a conservation biologist. For the most part, the research that I have and will carry out has direct conservation/management implications. While that doesn’t play especially well for agencies like the NSF, it does for agencies like the EPA, Nat’l Park Service, and of course the USFWS. That played a critical role in my decision to become a Sea Grant Fellow, and especially to serve my year at the USFWS.

Unlike many of my peers who are in line offices at NOAA (e.g.., program-specific appOintments like climate change and protected habitats), my office covers every area in USFWS. The trade off is that we’re light on the science and but high on exposure. Lately we’ve been responsible for prepping witnesses to testify in hearings before congress, and there have been a lot of hearings.

Since this original purpose of this post was to talk just about the hearings, I’m going to divide it into two so you all don’t get reader fatigue.


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