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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes
REGION8: Regional Director Steve Thompson to Retire
Region 8, May 26, 2008
Steve Thompson working with bald eagles early in his career. (USFWS Photo)
Steve Thompson working with bald eagles early in his career. (USFWS Photo) - Photo Credit: n/a
Steve Thompson (Photo: Renee Thompson)
Steve Thompson (Photo: Renee Thompson) - Photo Credit: n/a

Scott Flaherty, Region 8 External Affairs

Steve Thompson, Region 8’s first regional director will retire from the Fish and Wildlife Service August 2, 2008, after 32 years of federal service. 

 

Ask him about his best days as a federal employee, and Steve Thompson can recount several special days from his federal career.. His catalogue of memories spans a career path that began as a GS-5 wildlife biologist at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, to Chief of Refuges in the Southeast Region (Region 4), to Regional Director of the Service’s California and Nevada Region.

 

Thompson’s passion for wildlife was shaped soon after graduating from Humboldt State University in 1976. He can recall long days spent outside as a wildlife biologist, trudging through swamps, surveying nesting bald and golden eagles, countless ducks and sand hill cranes. He’s witnessed a handful of rare migration spectacles involving half a million birds flying overhead, and experience he describes as, “almost spiritual.”

 

Within each recollection, however, is evidence that illustrates the key to his success has been a deep affection for wildlife and people.

 

 “The memories of my best days and greatest accomplishments as a federal employee have never really been about me at all,” Thompson, 54, explains. “They’ve resulted from being in the right place, at the right time with the right people. Being a part of an organization that shares a collective passion for caring for this nation’s fish and wildlife resources is what I’m most proud of.”

 

Thompson has provided leadership to the California, Nevada and Klamath Basin region since 2001, when he came to Sacramento on what was promised to be a temporary six- month detail. He supervised an office of a dozen or so staff inundated with resources issues that were often as complex as they were controversial.

 

“The volume and complexity of crisis involving water and endangered species issues here was mind-boggling,” Thompson recalled. “I had members of congress, senators and other very important people on the telephone 4-5 times a day looking for solutions to their problems regarding water, endangered species, and other conservation issues.”

 

In a part of the country as rich in wildlife treasures as it can be in wildlife controversy, Thompson has been a catalyst for bringing together people with diverse, and opposing perspectives on wildlife conservation.

 

“I’ve met people from all sides of some of the most pressing resource conservation issues of our day,” Thompson said.  “I’ve gotten to know them, and gotten to know how fish and wildlife issues affect their livelihoods and their families.  I’ve developed friendships with many people who, years ago would have been considered adversaries of wildlife conservation.” 

 

He speaks with pride about helping form the California Rangeland Conservation Coalition, a group of 58 signatories representing ranching, agriculture and conservation groups who have found common ground on pressing wildlife habitat issues.  He’s also been a key facilitator in bringing industry, government and tribal parties together to find sustainable, long-term solutions to a myriad of conservation issues in Klamath River Basin. Most recently, Thompson earned a 2007 Presidential Rank award in the category of Distinguished Senior Professionals and Executives, the highest ranking award for a federal employee and the first time a Service employee has received it.

 

“Along the way, I’ve learned that doing the right things for wildlife often means doing the right things for people, Thompson said.  

 

Thompson’s other assignments include stints at Puget Sound National Wildlife Refuge in Washington, Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge in Nevada, and Laguna Atacosa National Wildlife Refuge in Texas, where he was refuge manager. In 1994 he was chosen as the first "Refuge Manager of the Year" by the National Audubon Society and the National Wildlife Refuge Association.

 

 

Contact Info: Scott Flaherty, , Scott_Flaherty@fws.gov