SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on Monday tapped the head of Utah’s wildlife management division as deputy director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a newly created position where the appointee will serve as acting head of the agency until a director is named and confirmed.
Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Director Greg Sheehan was named to the post a month after Zinke visited newly designated Bears Ears National Monument, which was opposed by the Utah Wildlife Board and other Utah leaders.
Under an executive order from President Donald Trump, Zinke is reviewing the creation of Bears Ears and more than two dozen other national monuments. Sheehan said he didn’t speak with Zinke during his visit, and the monument doesn’t contain land managed by Fish and Wildlife.
Sheehan is a longtime hunter, fisherman and aspiring wildlife photographer who has worked for Utah’s wildlife division for 25 years, five as director.
“Hunters and anglers are an important part of conservation in America. They fund most conservation agencies across America,” he said. “I think it’s important not to allow that system to erode.”
Zinke said in a statement that Sheehan, 54, will help the department be “pro-conservation and more collaborative.”
In Utah, Sheehan has helped conserve the greater sage grouse so it would not be listed under the Endangered Species Act, and increase the mule deer populations, according to the state’s natural resources department.
Sheehan is expected to start in mid-June and serve as acting head of the Fish and Wildlife Service until Trump nominates a director who is confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Sheehan said he’s not expecting to see his name in the running for the top spot.
The agency is tasked with enforcing federal wildlife laws, protecting endangered species and conserving wildlife habitat, among other responsibilities.