The U.S. Senate confirmed Martha Williams to lead the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in a voice vote late yesterday evening.

Williams was the first woman to lead Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks under former Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock, a post she held from 2017 to 2020. There she oversaw management of nearly 700 employees and more than 50 state parks. During her time with FWP, which also included a legal career with the agency from 1998 to 2011, she worked on controversial issues that are resurfacing in her new post, including wolf, bison and grizzly management.

Martha Williams Credit: University of Montana

Williams was appointed to become the federal agency’s principal deputy director in January 2021. In October, President Joe Biden announced he was nominating her to take the agency’s top post, which oversees 567 national wildlife refuges and about 8,000 employees. USFWS also administers the Endangered Species Act and manages and distributes more than $1 billion to states, tribes and territories for fish and wildlife conservation.

Williams is the second Montana woman to assume a high-profile leadership role in President Biden’s Interior Department. Missoulian Tracy Stone-Manning took the helm of the Bureau of Land Management last September after a lengthy and contentious confirmation process. 

In an emailed statement about Williams’ confirmation, Montana Sen. Jon Tester, a Democrat, said the agency is in good hands.

“Martha Williams’ confirmation to lead the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is a victory for Montana, our outdoor economy and heritage, and for every American that happens to care about our nation’s greatest natural treasures: our public lands and wildlife.”

Montana Sen. Jon Tester

“Martha Williams’ confirmation to lead the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is a victory for Montana, our outdoor economy and heritage, and for every American that cares about what happens to our nation’s greatest natural treasures: our public lands and wildlife,” he said. “As a Montanan and nonpartisan wildlife expert, Martha has time and again demonstrated her ability to bring sportsmen and conservationists together to find collaborative, science-based solutions to tough problems.”

Steve Daines, Tester’s Republican counterpart in the U.S. Senate, also supported Williams’ nomination. In a Nov. 16 letter to the Senate committee that considered her nomination ahead of the full-chamber vote, Daines celebrated Williams’ dedication to public service and understanding of “the importance of coordinating with state wildlife agencies in wildlife management and policy decisions,” as well as her appreciation for “Montanans’ concerns with top-down over-reaching policies and frustrations with bureaucratic regulatory challenges.”

Williams’ swearing-in ceremony is expected to take place in the coming weeks.

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Amanda Eggert studied print journalism at the University of Montana. Prior to becoming a full-time journalist, Amanda spent four years working with the Forest Service as a wildland firefighter. After leaving the Forest Service in 2014, Amanda worked for Outside magazine as an editorial fellow before joining Outlaw Partners’ staff to lead coverage for Explore Big Sky newspaper and contribute writing and editing to Explore Yellowstone and Mountain Outlaw magazines. Prior to joining Montana Free Press’ staff in 2021 Amanda was a freelance writer, researcher and interviewer. In addition to writing...