There is certainly no shortage of headline-catching news these days with a new president in the White House, new secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture, and an administration budget proposal that has created a great deal of discussion about the future of conservation funding. In order to understand what all these issues mean to Ducks Unlimited and our mission, it's important to know how the federal government works, who can make decisions, and the process for building a "political team."
There are literally thousands of political jobs that are appointments by the administration, either by the president or a department secretary. What is particularly important to understand is that just over 1,000 of these jobs are presidential appointments confirmed by the Senate (PAS) and, if we remove all the ambassadorships, only around 500 PAS positions are responsible for running the entire civil government. The Department of the Interior (DOI), as an example, oversees one in every five acres in the United States, is responsible for overseeing all U.S. energy production except for hydro and nuclear, and has more than 70,000 career employees and around 100 political appointees. However, only about 15 of these political positions are PAS and carry the authority to make a decision on policy or agency direction. That is why the nominations to fill these positions are so important to DU.
At the time of this writing, the only PAS confirmed by the Senate or nominated to a position in the DOI is Secretary Zinke. That means that we await the important nominations of the deputy secretary; assistant secretary for fish, wildlife, and parks; and the director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In the water arena so important to DU, we await the nomination of the assistant secretary for water and science and the commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation. It is at these crucial positions in the chain of command where decisions are made that have a direct impact on DU's mission, our policy concerns, and federal appropriations so important to habitat conservation.
Secretary Zinke is off to a great start in supporting those conservation values we hold dear at DU. But he can't do it alone. We stand ready to assist him and the PAS team that he and the president build to carry out the far-reaching responsibilities of the department. But we also work at the state and local levels to encourage bonds, constitutional amendments for conservation, and funding of those programs once passed. One key example of this is Iowa's Water and Land Legacy (IWILL).
In 2010, the people of Iowa substantially supported a constitutional amendment to create a fund that would support water and wildlife conservation and outdoor recreational opportunities. Ducks Unlimited, led by our Iowa volunteers, is working hard to have the state legislature pass a 3/8 cent sales tax dedicated to funding the crucial IWILL grant program. We believe it offers the opportunity to reduce the conflict between farmers and cities over the costs of cleaning public drinking water. DU's farming friends are crucial to Iowa's economy and safe drinking water is one of DU's highest priorities. IWILL has the potential to help mitigate the costs to farmers for helping to reduce runoff and loss of valuable top soils. Partners such as Nestlé Purina have joined forces with DU to help shape a solution.
At both the federal and state levels, DU will keep working to move the needle in a positive direction. Please be watching for alerts when we will be asking for you to get involved. Go Team DU!
Chief Executive Officer