A U.S. Senate committee on Wednesday advanced the nomination of Montanan Martha Williams to lead the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Williams, the former director of Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, was nominated to the federal agency director post by President Joe Biden in October. She has served over the last year as principal deputy director at USFWS while the director’s position has remained open.
Williams advanced to the Senate floor with a 16-4 vote by the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Wednesday, earning praise from both the top Democrat and Republican on the committee.
Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., told the committee Williams had a proven track record of brining groups together on wildlife issues.
“That is why her nomination enjoys broad stakeholder support including from environmental organizations and sportsmen and women alike, including both senators from Montana,” he said.
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Both Democratic Sen. Jon Tester and Republican Sen. Steve Daines announced their support for Williams’ nomination ahead of her confirmation hearing in November.
The committee’s top Republican, Sen. Shelley Capito of West Virginia, also pledged her support for Williams.
“In my discussions with her, Ms. Williams agreed to preserve opportunities for hunting, fishing and other outdoor pursuits important to many West Virginians and across this country,” she said. “Ms. Williams and I will not agree with everything but she has shown she takes her responsibility to be accountable to Congress seriously and I thank her for that.”
The Republicans voting against her nomination did not offer their reasoning during Wednesday’s vote. Williams faced several pointed questions during her November confirmation hearing, including from Sen. Cynthia Lummis, a Republican from Wyoming, about delisting grizzly bears from the Endangered Species Act. Loomis was among those voting against the nomination.
Along with oversite over species listed as threatened or endangered, FWS also oversees national and sometimes international conservation issues. Those include fisheries, hatcheries, migratory birds, ecological services and federal wildlife refuges.
Before taking the deputy director’s position with the Biden administration, Williams served as director of Montana’s state wildlife agency under former Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock. She previously worked as an attorney for FWP from 1998 to 2011 and for two years as a solicitor at the Department of the Interior. She returned to Montana to teach at the Alexander Blewett III School of Law at the University of Montana before her appointment to FWP.
Williams touted her experience at both the state and federal level and pledged adherence to the law, science and collaboration during her confirmation hearing.
Tom Kuglin is the deputy editor for the Lee Newspapers State Bureau. His coverage focuses on outdoors, recreation and natural resources.