Meet the Oil and Gas Chum Now In Charge of Our Nation's Wildlife

Last month, to little fanfare, Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke placed Susan Combs, a vociferous critic of the Endangered Species Act, in charge of its enforcement.


Combs is a former Texas politician and longtime friend of the oil and gas industry. Because Zinke couldn’t push her nomination for assistant secretary for policy, management and budget through the Senate, he appointed Combs as acting assistant secretary for fish, parks, and wildlife at the Interior Department.

That means she’s in charge of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Park Service, directing policy and programs related to land and natural resource conservation, overseeing improvement of fish and wildlife habitats, enforcing the Endangered Species Act, and chairing the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission.

It’s a bit of dream job for Combs, who spent seven years as Texas state comptroller attempting to thwart and dismantle the wildlife protections she’s now charged with upholding.

Not everyone is up in arms about this. Some, like Gary Mowad, former Deputy Chief for the FWS Office of Law Enforcement, think the ESA needs to be reigned in. He told Earther if Combs can get that job done without taking pushing things too far in favor of industry, he’ll be satisfied.

Others say it’s playing with fire.

As former associate director of FWS Bob Dreher put it to Earther, “It’s a lot like putting Scott Pruitt in charge of the EPA.” And we all know how that’s going.


Maddie Stone is a freelancer based in Philadelphia.


One would think by this time it would be impossible to hate these people any more. One would be wrong.