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Deputy Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Greg Sheehan is serving in the “newly created position” of “deputy director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” and will “serve as acting head of the agency until a director is named and confirmed.” Sheehan is “primarily… responsible for protecting imperiled species and enforcing hunting and fishing regulations.” 

Greg Sheehan “grew up in Utah,” and went to Utah State University where he got his undergraduate degree in business administration and finance. After college, Sheehan “worked with the Air Force as a civilian” for six years where he “correct[ed] inefficiencies in cost and pricing between the Air Force and major Defense Department contractors.” Sheehan then served in “Utah’s wildlife division for more than two decades,” most recently serving as the director of Utah’s Division of Wildlife Resources. Sheehan is also “a lifelong hunter, angler, and aspiring wildlife photographer.”

Sources: [Corbin Hiar, “Zinke picks Utah official to be FWS deputy director,” Energy & Environment, 06/05/17, “Utah official named acting head of US Fish and Wildlife,” Associated Press, 06/05/17, JaNae Francis, “Layton man new Utah DWR director,” Standard-Examiner, 11/25/12, and Department of the Interior, Press Release, 06/05/17]

Special Interests

Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (Protecting Public Lands)

Sheehan is a "longtime member" of sportsmen's group the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. RMEF conserves land to protect elk ranges.

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also connected to:

Council to Advance Hunting and Shooting Sports (Protecting Public Lands)

Sheehan is a board member of the Council to Advance Hunting and Shooting Sports, which promotes hunting and educates "the public on the contributions that hunters and shooters make towards wildlife conservation."

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also connected to:

Intermountain West Joint Venture (Protecting Public Lands)

Sheehan serves on the board the Intermountain West Joint Venture, a public-private partnership that conducts activities "in support of bird conservation goals."

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also connected to:

Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife (SFW) (Resource Development on Public Lands)

When Sheehan was Director of DWR, DWR accepted a $1 million check from SFW. Critics observed that it appeared "that SFW and not the DWR" was "in charge of wildlife in Utah." SFW is a sportsmen's group that has "ties to energy interests."

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also connected to:

Safari Club International (Resource Development on Public Lands)

According to Safari Club International's website, Sheehan "is a member of SCI and has been a key participant for several years at SCI's annual Western Directors' Forum at the SCI Convention."

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Background Information

Previous Employers

U.S. Air Force

Utah Division of Wildlife Service

Additional Background on Employers of Note:

Greg Sheehan opposed the reintroduction of Mexican wolves into Utah when he was Director of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR).

While he was Director of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR), Greg Sheehan opposed reintroduction of Mexican wolves, “one of the most critically endangered mammals on Earth,” into their historic range in Utah. Sheehan said that bringing Mexican wolves into Utah was “‘just not really a very sound approach to recovery planning on a highly endangered species'” because Utah was a “‘new region where they didn’t evolve in the first place.'” Wildlife advocates said that “refusing the Mexican wolf’s entry” in Utah was “taking a ‘selfish’ approach” and that there were only “a few swaths of public land large enough for management of a long-ranging species like wolves are left.”

[House Natural Resources Democrats, Press Release, 06/29/17, Brian Maffly, “Conservationists blast long-awaited recovery plan for Mexican wolves, which excludes Utah, Colorado from lobos’ range,” Salt Lake Tribune, 06/29/17, Morgan Jacobsen, “Wildlife Advocates Hold Rally in Utah to Save Mexican Gray Wolf,” KSL, 01/14/16, and “Conservationists howl for Mexican wolf protection in Utah,” Standard-Examiner, 01/14/16]

When Greg Sheehan was Director of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, DWR was criticized for accepting a $1 million check from Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife (SFW) and for giving SFW preference over other groups as a permit distributor.  

Although on their website Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife (SFW) brags that they are “dedicated to the perpetuation of wildlife,” that that they are “passionate about hunting,” SFW has “ties to energy interests.” Founded by Don Peay, “one of former President George W. Bush’s top fundraisers,” SFW has defied “mainstream sportsmen groups by not opposing the Bush administration’s oil and gas policies on public lands.”

[“About SFW,” Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, accessed 08/10/17 and Matt Lee-Ashley, “Oil and Gas Industry Investments in the National Rifle Association and Safari Club International: Reshaping American Energy, Land, and Wildlife Policy,” Center for American Progress, 04/14]

In 2012, while Sheehan was Director of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, the Executive Board of Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife “presented the Utah DWR Director, Greg Sheehan, and the Utah Wildlife Board a check for $1,071,284.58.” After the December 2012 donation, some observed that “money and political clout often give the impression that SFW and not the DWR is in charge of wildlife in Utah.”

[“SFW Donates $1 Million Dollars to the DWR,” Sportsmen for Fish & Wildlife, 12/05/12, and and Tom Wharton, “Wharton: Sportsmen for Fish & Wildlife about wrong kind of bucks,” Salt Lake Tribune, 03/21/13]

Also under Greg Sheehan’s leadership as Director of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, the DWR came “under fire” for a December 2015 decision when they “approved a wildlife conservation group, Sportsman for Fish and Wildlife, as a permit distributor for a hunting expo that [took] place in Salt Lake City every year.” DWR had the option to choose the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, which pledged to donate “100 percent of the proceeds from the hunting tags, back to Utah Conservation Efforts,” as the permit distributor, but instead they chose SFW, even though SFW “only designated 30% of the tag proceeds to conservation efforts. The decision created a firestorm amongst Utah outdoorsmen” who “accus[ed] the DWR… of corruption, catering to special interests and accepting bribes from Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife.”

[Chris Miller, “Allegations of corruption surround Utah Hunting and Conservation Expo,” KUTV, 02/26/16] 

Current Activity

Greg Sheehan is a member of Safari Club International, an anti-environmental hunting group that has contributed “to the killing of lions, African elephants and other endangered species.”

Greg Sheehan is a member of Safari Club International, an organization that claims it is “the leader in protecting the freedom to hunt and in promoting wildlife conservation worldwide,” but that animal protection advocates have said is “behind the killings of tens of thousands of animals, ‘including those on the brink of extinction.’” Competitions run by SCI “contribute to the killing of lions, African elephants and other endangered species.” SCI has also had “strategic partnerships” with the oil and gas industry and has supported a variety of anti-environmental legislation.

[Press Release, Safari Club International, 06/08/17; “SCI Foundation: In Major Setback for Anti-Hunting Efforts; FWS Rejects Attempts to Stop Lion Hunting,” PR Newswire, 10/27/14; Kate Gibson, “Safari Club attacked for incentives to kill rare animals,” CBS; 09/30/15, Matt Lee-Ashley, “Oil and Gas Industry Investments in the National Rifle Association and Safari Club International: Reshaping American Energy, Land, and Wildlife Policy,” Center for American Progress, 04/14; Ben Long, “Beware of Wolves,” Tucson Weekly, 09/29/11, Dale Sunderlin, “Young hunters score big,” Star Beacon, 11/28/11, Elizabeth Miller, “Hunting for conservation: Legislation aims for hunting access, but would destroy wildlife populations,” Boulder Weekly, 10/11/12, and Talasi Brooks and Kevin Proescholdt, “Safari Club and the NRA aim to gut wilderness,” High Country News, 06/21/12]

In November 2017, Greg Sheehan, at a Safari Club International event, announced that the elephant trophy import ban had been lifted, a decision that SCI applauded. President Trump quickly reversed the lifting of the ban. Then, on March 1, 2018, just weeks after he attended the 2018 Safari Club International Convention, Sheehan issued a memo saying that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would assess elephant trophy imports “on a ‘case-by-case basis.'”

In November 2017, Greg Sheehan announced the reversal of an Obama-era policy, saying that now “the remains of elephants legally hunted in Zimbabwe and Zambia can now be imported to the United States as trophies.” Sheehan announced the lifting of the ban during the African Wildlife Consultative Forum in Tanzania, which was co-hosted by the Safari Club International Foundation. Safari Club International “broke the news of the rule change a day ahead of Fish and Wildlife.” While Safari Club International applauded the decision, the lifting of the ban “faced backlash from both conservatives and liberals.”

[Darryl Fears and Juliet Eilperin, “Trump administration reverses ban on importing trophies from elephant hunts in two African nations,” Washington Post, 11/16/17; Chris D’Angelo, “Group Lobbying To End Trophy Hunting Ban Is Alarmingly Close With Ryan Zinke,” Huffington Post, 11/23/17; Press Release, Safari Club International, 11/14/17; Emily Cochrane, “For Now, Trump to Keep Ban on Importing Elephant Trophies,” New York Times, 11/17/17]

However, President Trump reversed Sheehan’s the lifting of the ban shortly after in a tweet, announcing that he was putting the decision “on hold,” and “called elephant hunting a ‘horror show.'”

[Emily Cochrane, “For Now, Trump to Keep Ban on Importing Elephant Trophies,” New York Times, 11/17/17; Anne Gearan, “Trump calls elephant hunting a ‘horror show’ and suggests he’ll enforce a ban on trophy imports,” Washington Post,  11/19/17]

On March 1, 2018, Greg Sheehan issued a memo withdrawing “previous rulings on trophy hunting” that said that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service “would allow sport hunters to receive permits for the trophy items on a ‘case-by-case basis.'”

[Eli Rosenberg, “Trump administration quietly makes it legal to bring elephant parts to the U.S. as trophies,” Washington Post, 03/06/18]

Sheehan’s March 1st memo came just weeks after he attended the Safari Club International Convention in Las Vegas in February 2018. At the convention, he met “with delegates from Tanzania, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia and South Africa.”

[Miranda Green and Timothy Cama, “High-ranking Trump official attends hunting convention,” The Hill, 02/03/18]

Greg Sheehan is currently working with Secretary Ryan Zinke’s International Wildlife Conservation Council, which is supposed to advise Secretary Zinke “on the benefits that international recreational hunting has on foreign wildlife and habitat conservation, anti-poaching and illegal wildlife trafficking programs.” Of the 16 members on the International Wildlife Conservation Council, “at least 10 have an affiliation with Safari Club International.”

On November 8, 2017, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced the creation of “the International Wildlife Conservation Council,” which will “focus on increased public awareness domestically regarding conservation, wildlife law enforcement, and economic benefits that result from U.S. citizens traveling abroad to hunt” and will “advise the Secretary of the Interior on the benefits that international recreational hunting has on foreign wildlife and habitat conservation, anti-poaching and illegal wildlife trafficking programs, and other ways in which international hunting benefits human populations in these areas.” The panel will be “stocked with up to 18 unpaid members” and “will examine issues from ‘recommending removal of barriers to the importation’ of legally hunted wildlife to reviewing the Endangered Species Act’s foreign listed species and streamlining import permits.”

[Department of Interior, Press Release, 11/08/17 and Michael Doyle, “Zinke launches panel to promote international hunting,” Greenwire, 11/08/17]

Greg Sheehan, in the Federal Register on March 2, 2018, announced the first public meeting of the International Wildlife Conservation Council, scheduled to take place on March 16, 2018. Greg Sheehan also spoke to the group at its first meeting.

[International Wildlife Conservation Council; Public Meeting, Federal Register, 03/03/18; Miranda C. Green, “Controversial Trump hunting group meets for first time,” The Hill, 03/16/18]

Of the 16 members on the International Wildlife Conservation Council, “at least 10 have an affiliation with Safari Club International,” including Paul Babaz, President of Safari Club International and Peter Horn, ex-Vice President of Safari Club International, and Bill Brewster, a lobbyist who served on Safari Club International’s board.

[Stephanie Mencimer, “Reality Stars, Trophy Hunters, and Gun Boosters: Meet the Trump Administration’s Wildlife Conservation Council,” Mother Jones, 03/16/18; Michael Biesecker, Jake Pearson, and Jeff Horwitz, “Trump wildlife protection board has many trophy hunters,” Washington Post, 03/16/18]

Greg Sheehan also helped the Independent Petroleum Association of America delay an Endangered Species listing for the Texas hornshell mussel.

On July 11 and 12, 2017, IPAA Director of Government Relations Samantha McDonald emailed Counselor for Energy Policy Vincent DeVito and Deputy Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Greg Sheehan, saying that IPAA “strongly oppose[d] the listing” of the Texas hornshell mussel “under the ESA as endangered, or threatened.” The Fish and Wildlife Service had been scheduled to issue an Endangered Species Act listing decision for the Texas hornshell mussel in August 2017. McDonald told DeVito that IPAA was “really hoping” he could “intervene” before the species was listed. On July 25 and August 1, McDonald sent emails to Sheehan thanking him for “looking into” the Hornshell issue. On August 10, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service delayed “a listing decision on the Texas hornshell for six months.” On August 17, McDonald emailed DeVito and Sheehan, thanking them for the “good call” to delay the decision, and saying that IPAA members were “most grateful.”

[OS-2017-001063 (Sage Grouse Comms from Industry), Pages 83-84, 104, 170, 205, 274, Daniel J. Chacón, “Feds put off decision on Texas hornshell’s status,” The New Mexican, 08/10/17; Adrian Hedden, “Blight on the banks: Officials hope saving a rare mussel could restore the Black River,” Carlsbad Current-Argus, 11/26/17]

Since he began serving in the Trump administration, Greg Sheehan has supported efforts to reform the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Greg Sheehan, in June 2017, said that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service sought “‘to improve implementation of the [Endangered Species Act],'” and the Trump “‘administration [was] committed to making the ESA work for the American people.'”

When asked about “five bills targeting portions” of the Endangered Species Act, Sheehan said that “‘in general the administration supports them.'”

In particular, Sheehan supported part of a bill “that would remove current 90-day and 12-month deadlines for making decisions on species listing decisions” and part of another bill “that would require the Fish and Wildlife Service to consider all data submitted by state, local and tribal governments.”

[Chris D’Angelo, “Fish And Wildlife Service Backs GOP-Led Bills To Chip Away At Endangered Species Act,” Huffington Post, 07/19/17, and Michael Doyle, “FWS backs contentious Republican reform package,” Greenwire, 07/19/17]

Financials

Financial Disclosure

Department of the Interior salary: $162,000

[Gregory John Sheehan, ProPublica’s Trump Town, accessed 03/15/18]

Other Information

Greg Sheehan belongs to several sportsmen’s and conservation groups, including the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the Intermountain West Joint Venture, and the Council to Advance Hunting and Shooting Sports.  

Sportsmen’s group the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation “counts Sheehan as a longtime member.” RMEF “permanently protects crucial elk winter and summer ranges, migration corridors, calving grounds and other vital areas, while focusing on securing and improving hunter access throughout elk country” and conserves land through “acquisitions, access agreements and easements, conservation easements, land and real estate donations, land exchanges and associated acres.”

[Corbin Hiar, “Zinke picks Utah official to be FWS deputy director,” Energy & Environment, 06/05/17, and “How We Conserve,” Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, accessed 08/10/17]

Greg Sheehan is on the management board of the “Intermountain West Joint Venture,” a “partnership is comprised of federal agencies, state fish and wildlife agencies, non-governmental organizations, tribes, universities, policymakers, corporations, foundations, and private landowners” that “conduct[s] activities in support of bird conservation goals developed by the partnership.”

[“Management Board,” Intermountain West Joint Venture, accessed 08/10/17, “Who We Are,” Intermountain West Joint Venture, accessed 08/10/17, and “What We Do,” Intermountain West Joint Venture, accessed 08/10/17]

Greg Sheehan is a Board Member of the “Council to Advance Hunting and Shooting Sports.” The mission of the Council is the “promotion and growth of hunting and the shooting sports and the education of the public on the contributions that hunters and shooters make towards wildlife conservation.”

[Rich Landers, “Zinke taps Utah wildlife director to head U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” Spokesman-Review, 06/05/17, and “Council Mission and Values,” Council to Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports, accessed 08/10/17]