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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

Meet the People Behind Our Fisheries Program: Baker Holden

Region 1, February 22, 2013
Baker Holden sorting salmon at Quinault National Fish Hatchery
Baker Holden sorting salmon at Quinault National Fish Hatchery - Photo Credit: n/a

Even though Baker Holden knew he wanted to be a scientist when he was in the eighth grade, a school counselor recommended against it.

Thankfully for the Service, he didn't take her advice.

Holden, a fisheries biologist, is the Assistant Manager for the Washington Fish and Wildlife Office’s Fisheries Division. The Division conserves native fish, conducts studies, controls aquatic invasive species, and monitors hatchery programs and Service trust aquatic species in western Washington.

The office’s jurisdiction and 12-20 staff covers the Seattle metropolitan area, Puget Sound, the entire Washington coast, and activities in the Lower Columbia River.

The large scope of activity suits Holden just fine. “It’s never the same thing every day, it’s always different. I like it that way,” he says.

A twenty-year field biologist turned manager, Holden’s building on experience that includes everything from the conservation of trout and salmon in northern California to the management of bats and their caves in New Mexico. 

The Service isn't the only place Holden has flexed his natural resource management muscle.  For nearly a decade, he worked in the U.S. Forest Service's Six Rivers National Forest, followed by several years with the National Park Service’s Redwood National and State Parks and El Malpais and El Morro National Monuments.

In addition to the dynamic pace of his Fisheries program, he enjoys mastering new natural resource issues and problem solving. “Since this wasn’t what I did in my prior 21 years, at first it was a challenge to learn this new universe of 'hatchery vs. wild fish,' Holden says. 

“I’ve also learned in these last two years how important fisheries management is to our tribal trust responsibilities and our tribal partners. Our Division works in a lot of different areas, not just salmon and steelhead and not just with National Fish Hatcheries.”

Holden's Division’s activities defy the notion that Pacific Northwest fisheries conservation focus solely on salmon. While salmon and steelhead are important, so are other native fish and aquatic fauna, like freshwater mussels, Olympic mudminnow—Washington State’s only endemic aquatic fish, and Lake Sammamish kokanee, an emerging partner-led success story.

“I think the Lake Sammamish kokanee [story] is really interesting,” Holden says. “My division has been developing partnerships working with the State, counties, and the four cities on Lake Sammamish. This last year was most successful kokanee spawning year in living memory."

Outside of work Holden plays music, golfs, fishes, and enjoys nature with his daughter and his wife, who is expecting their second child in May.

But Holden’s commitment to connecting people with nature—or natural resources careers—doesn’t stop with his own children. With the help of Division Manager Brad Thompson, Holden has helped the Division in encouraging the next generation of scientists. Full time staff, summer seasonal employees, and interns are given opportunities to combine field experience, new media, and youth education activities to share their expertise and passion with others.

Holden isn’t afraid to share his own career and philosophy with aspiring ecologists and biologists. “Pursue your dreams; if you have desire, pursue your dream,” he advises. “If your dream is to be a scientist and work out in nature, you should go for it. And being goal-oriented is important, but how you go about doing it is important, too.

“And in the end, differences aren’t what’s important, what we [all] have in common is important.”

Contact Info: Sean Connolly, 503-231-2353, sean_connolly@fws.gov