Does Losing Gilchrest Matter?

By Sheril Kirshenbaum

Wayne Gilchrest is a champion for oceans policy. He’s lost his seat, so now what?

It’s obvious Wayne Gilchrest has been a tremendous voice for oceans, but the truth is, it may not be all that evident he’s gone.

Wayne co-chaired the House Oceans Caucus, but be assured, in his absence, Representative Sam Farr will not drop the fight and members will work to rebuild it.   It’s important to remember that a caucus has no oversight or legislative authority.  While there’s no question that Gilchrest has been a champion of oceans and environmental issues and caucuses are good evidence and support for legislation, our focus should be on the Fisheries, Wildlife and Oceans Subcommittee.

This subcommittee has jurisdiction over programs within the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and serves as congressional steward of 547 national wildlife refuges, 70 federal fish hatcheries, 13,000 miles of coastline and 3.4 million square nautical miles of ocean.

Wayne Gilchrest chaired the subcommittee for six years, but his role was marginalized by the House Resources Committee chairman Richard Pombo who oversaw oceans issues on the full committee level.  When Pombo lost his seat, Nick Rahall took over and he allows subcommittees to take a more active role on bills before the full committee considers them.  Representative Madeleine Bordallo is now the acting chair and supports “long-term protection and responsible use of our nation’s marine and terrestrial wildlife resources, as well as the environmental health of our coasts and oceans.”

So while Wayne will be missed tremendously in the oceans community, the fight for oceans policy in Congress will continue in his absence.


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