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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

SAN DIEGO NWR COMPLEX: Project Leader wins 2014 Refuge Manager of the Year Award

Region 8, February 5, 2014
Andy Yuen shakes hands with the legendary Mike McCoy, president of the Southwest Wetlands Interpretive Association in Imperial Beach, during the Coastal America Awards ceremony in 2013 which the refuge and other team members won for the completion of the western salt ponds restoration project. McCoy was involved in the establishment of the Tijuana Slough and San Diego Bay NWRs, and has been a community leader in conservation. Pictured in the background is Pacific Southwest Regional Director, Ren Lohoefner.
Andy Yuen shakes hands with the legendary Mike McCoy, president of the Southwest Wetlands Interpretive Association in Imperial Beach, during the Coastal America Awards ceremony in 2013 which the refuge and other team members won for the completion of the western salt ponds restoration project. McCoy was involved in the establishment of the Tijuana Slough and San Diego Bay NWRs, and has been a community leader in conservation. Pictured in the background is Pacific Southwest Regional Director, Ren Lohoefner. - Photo Credit: n/a
Yuen talking to Girl Scout troop #5912 and Jo Dee Jacobs, Chief Executive Officer of the Girl Scout San Diego-Imperial Council, during their Silver Award unveiling of a wildlife mural, and, groundbreaking event with River Partners to restore the Otay River delta in 2012.
Yuen talking to Girl Scout troop #5912 and Jo Dee Jacobs, Chief Executive Officer of the Girl Scout San Diego-Imperial Council, during their Silver Award unveiling of a wildlife mural, and, groundbreaking event with River Partners to restore the Otay River delta in 2012. - Photo Credit: n/a
Yuen being interviewed in 2011 by then KPBS environmental reporter, Ed Joyce, about the western salt ponds restoration on San Diego Bay NWR.
Yuen being interviewed in 2011 by then KPBS environmental reporter, Ed Joyce, about the western salt ponds restoration on San Diego Bay NWR. - Photo Credit: n/a

By Lisa Cox,

Andy Yuen, Project Leader for the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge Complex (NWRC), has been selected as the recipient of the Paul Kroegel Refuge Manager of the Year Award by the National Wildlife Refuge Association. The prestigious national award recognizes Yuen for his accomplishments in protecting and managing the Seal Beach, Tijuana Slough, San Diego Bay and San Diego National Wildlife Refuges in southern California.

Yuen has been the San Diego NWRC Project Leader since 2005. During his time as project leader, he has achieved many successes for the four urban wildlife refuges that are home to many threatened and endangered species, including the light-footed clapper rail, quino checkerspot butterfly and California gnatcatcher. The key to Yuen’s formula for success is partnerships. Throughout his tenure, Yuen has worked closely with other agencies, organizations and stakeholders to build trust and combine resources to accomplish goals.

In 2012, Yuen’s leadership contributed to the addition of Hidden Valley, a 1,905-acre conservation area, to the San Diego NWR. The addition of the Hidden Valley area was accomplished through close partnering with diverse stakeholders, including the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), Department of Homeland Security, California departments of Transportation and Fish and Wildlife, and The Nature Conservancy among others.

Yuen began his career in 1984 with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) as a Cooperative Education Program student intern in the Pacific Islands Office in his native Hawaii. While at the Pacific Island Office he helped to establish the Kealia Pond NWR and the Guam NWR. Even after leaving Hawaii, his early work set the stage for the establishment of the Oahu Forest and Palmyra Atoll NWRs.

Later moving to southern California, he worked in various positions with the Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office, then the San Diego NWRC. Always an out-of-the-box thinker, Yuen was one of the first Service Project Leaders to participate in the Wounded Warriors program, which provides work experience opportunities for wounded military service members as they transitioned from the military to the civilian workforce. Yuen worked with the local Veterans Administration hospital to bring service members onto the refuges and expose them to civilian jobs where they could use their background and training.

Yuen’s willingness to reach out and provide support to community partners in order to achieve mutual goals has led to the completion of many successful projects on the refuges and in adjacent communities. One of Yuen’s successful coordinations, completed in 2011, worked with NOAA, EPA, California Coastal Conservancy, Port of San Diego, U.S. Navy, and the Cities of Imperial Beach and Coronado and resulted in the completion of a 300-acre coastal wetland restoration project that restored 230 acres of tidal salt marsh on San Diego Bay NWR and enhanced an additional 70 acres of coastal uplands and wetlands on Port property in San Diego Bay. A similar partnership also resulted in grant funding to construct a trail that runs parallel to Bayshore Bikeway and improves public access for observing wildlife in south San Diego Bay.

By engaging refuge neighbors – agencies and organizations, the military and private landowners – Yuen helps build and maintain support for the Refuge System’s ongoing conservation mission. “I am deeply honored to be recognized by the National Wildlife Refuge Association, this award reflects the care, support and guidance that the Service family has so generously shared with me during my career. I am truly grateful for the privilege to have worked with an awe-inspiring group of friends, colleagues, and partners in conserving the wildlife of Hawaii and southern California,” said Yuen.

The Refuge Manager of the Year Award is given each year in honor of Paul Kroegel, the first manager of the first national wildlife refuge established in 1908 at Pelican Island, Florida. The awards are administered by the National Wildlife Refuge Association and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation in Washington, D.C.

“Andy is a true leader who provides vision and direction, and then gives his staff the space to learn, grow and ultimately do great work,” said National Wildlife Refuge Association President, David Houghton. “His track record speaks volumes about who he is as a conservation leader and a friend to wildlife,” added Houghton.

Lisa Cox is a public information and public outreach specialist at the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge Complex in Chula Vista, California.

 

 

 

 

Contact Info: Lisa Cox, 619.476.9150 ext. 106, lisa_cox@fws.gov