Scientists, conservationists challenge Biden appointment to U.S. Fish and Wildlife

By Ron Dungan
Published: Wednesday, April 26, 2023 - 5:45pm

Martha Williams
Department of the Interior
Martha Williams (right) is sworn in as director of the Fish and Wildlife Service by Secretary Deb Haaland in March 2022.

Scientists and conservationists have challenged the appointment of President Joe Biden’s director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, an attorney who spent more than two decades with the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

Dozens of academics, conservationists and former agency employees recently sent a letter to administration officials with their concerns over the director, Martha Williams.

They say federal law requires that the president appoint someone with a scientific background to the position.

Williams has a bachelor's in philosophy from the University of Virginia and a law degree from the University of Montana, according to congressional records and the Department of Interior.

Dave Parsons, a retired Fish and Wildlife scientist who helped launch the Mexican wolf recovery program, said that everyone in the position for several decades has had a science background. 

"So what we’re asking is that she be removed, because she’s ineligible, and that there be a better process other than political persuasion," Parsons said.

He says her appointment, which went unchallenged by the Senate, sets a bad precedent for future administrations.