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Pacific Southwest Day 1
Midwest Region, February 28, 2011
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I flew over Lake Tahoe, passing over the snowcapped mountains and then the valley below. As we continued to move westward of the Lake, the white specks dotting the ground became fewer and further between, until the landscape was completely green and brown. I thought, ‘Finally, I’ll step foot outdoors without on snow, ice or a mixture of slush and salt.’

 

I will be testing out my skills as a public affairs specialist for two weeks from February 28 – March 11 in a hotbed area for conservation, or as a few of my colleagues back in Minneapolis have said, “stepping from ice to flame.” The California-Nevada Region, recently renamed the Pacific Southwest Region or Region 8, is a hotbed of conservation and habitat management issues, mostly dealing with endangered species and water. Too many of one, too little of the other.

After completing my first day on the job, I am starting to learn why. Out here, water is a precious and rare resource, and competition over this necessity is fierce. Finding a balance between ecology and economy is key.

Within a few minutes of assuming my new role as Deputy ARD External Affairs this morning, I heard an astounding figure from my detail supervisor, Scott Flaherty, Acting Assistant Regional Director of External Affairs. “The Pacific Southwest Region is home to more than 300 listed species,” said Flaherty. Listed means they are either Federally threatened or endangered. ‘Well,’ I thought to myself, ‘that explains why the Sacramento Ecological Services Field Office (which is responsible for endangered species issues) is five times the size of its Regional Office.’ That may be an exaggeration, but the point is clear – the passion for endangered species in this part of the world runs deep.

See some of this unique wildlife up close at the Pacific Southwest Region's Flickr page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfws_pacificsw/sets/72157624943896551/show/

I see irony in what we are preparing to fight back home in the Midwest; historic flooding caused by heavy snowfall and spring thaw, and the devastation caused by too much water. Here, in the Pacific Southwest, there’s simply not enough.

Today, I discussed with the Regional Webmaster, Jon Myatt, the Fish and Wildlife Service’s use of social media sites as a platform for sharing ideas, and spreading a message of conservation to new audiences. Although our Regions are geographically very different– the Midwest Region known for its big rivers, Great Lakes, and hunting and fishing ethic; and the Pacific Southwest known for its temperate climate, rich biodiversity, and very unique conservation challenges; our mission remains the same – to protect and serve our Fish and Wildlife resources, work hand in hand with our partners in conservation, and serve the American public to ensure future generations carry with them a solid conservation principle.

“We see the Regional Office as the main news desk, and the field stations as our affiliates,” said Jon Myatt. With public affairs offices in many of the FWS field stations in Region 8, the reach and scope of the FWS message can stretch into local communities that these FWS Refuges and field stations support. “Our Refuges are our first line of communication with many members of the general public, and it’s important for them to educate, inform and have an open dialogue about conservation with our many publics.”

“This Region is an alive being, and conservation issues are constantly changing and evolving, therefore the flow of information must be constant,” said Myatt. I have a feeling I’ll have my work cut out for me.

During my two weeks here, I aim to discover the commonalities of the Midwest and Pacific Southwest regions, as siblings within the Fish and Wildlife Service family, and learn from our differences; and perhaps leave with a more finely tuned understanding of conservation issues beyond what lies in our countries mid-section, and, an appreciation for the awe-inspiring, albeit somewhat foreign to me, natural resources of the West.

More to come…

To learn more about the Pacific Southwest Region, check out their Web site – http://www.fws.gov/cno/

Ashley Spratt, Pacific Southwest Regional Office – Sacramento, CA


 

Contact Info: Ashley Spratt, 805-644-1766 ext. 369, ashley_spratt@fws.gov



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