Pacific Southwest Region
California, Nevada and Klamath Basin

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Announces 2013 Endangered Species Recovery Champions

May 16, 2014

Contact: Pam Bierce, 916-414-6542

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Announces 2013 Endangered Species Recovery Champions

Residents of California and Nevada Honored

SACRAMENTO -- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today recognized 11 individuals and five teams for their exceptional efforts to conserve and protect the nation’s rarest fish, wildlife and plants by designating them 2013 Recovery Champions. Among the award winners honored for their work from the Service’s Pacific Southwest Region were Jesse Bennett from California and the nine person interagency Devils Hole pupfish team in Nevada. 
 “We all owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to these dedicated conservationists who are on the front lines fighting the battle against extinction,” said Service Director Dan Ashe. “Their spirit and determination is the application of Aldo Leopold’s counsel to ‘keep every cog and wheel,’ and they provide hope for all of us that our children and the generations that follow will be able to enjoy the same tremendous diversity of plants and animals that we do today.”

Service employee Jesse Bennett from the Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office was selected for his leadership and commitment to improve the status of the endangered Southern California Distinct Population Segment of the mountain yellow-legged frog. His efforts to secure more than $300,000 in funding, in combination with more than $2 million in support from partner agencies have resulted in habitat improvements, amelioration of threats to the species, and greater knowledge of the species’ biology and ecology.

His proactive approach and dedication has been instrumental to the success of many ongoing collaborative projects. As a result of his tireless work to recover the species through research and on-the-ground actions to reduce threats, frogs are being re-established and efforts are underway to identify additional translocation sites.

The "interagency partners-in-mission" team working on the Devils Hole pupfish was recognized for their leadership, teamwork and innovation in helping to conserve the Devils Hole pupfish. The team includes:

• Death Valley National Park employees: Kevin Wilson, Daniel Gaines and Jeffery Goldstein
• Nevada Division of Wildlife employees: Kevin Guadalupe and Brandon Senger
• Service employees: Javier Linares (Regional Office), Lee Simons (Nevada FWO), Darrick Weissenfluh and Olin Feuerbacher (Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge)
The team was formed after the April 2013 Devils Hole pupfish count determined the population had declined to an estimated 35 fish, the fewest ever counted.

The team utilized new and creative methods to successfully hatch and rear Devils Hole pupfish in captivity as well as improve conditions in Devils Hole, which helped reverse an alarming population decline and thwart a serious risk of extinction to this iconic species. As a result of their collective efforts, there are currently 30 captive Devils Hole pupfish in a new facility designed specifically for pupfish conservation as well as an increasing population of pupfish in Devils Hole. 

“These awards honor those that go above and beyond in endangered species conservation,” said Ren Lohoefener, Regional Director of the Pacific Southwest Region. “The work that these champions do every day to protect wildlife is inspiring. The efforts of Jesse and the entire Devils Hole pupfish team exemplify their commitment and dedication.”

The Recovery Champion awards began in 2002 as a recognition program for Service staff members for their achievements in conserving listed species. In 2007, the program was expanded to honor Service partners, recognizing their essential role in the recovery of threatened and endangered species.

For information about the 2013 Recovery Champions, please visit:


The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service.

For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit Connect with our Facebook page, follow our tweets, watch our YouTube Channel, and download photos from our Flickr page.