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A True Believer

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  Click on thumbnail image for original version of article in pdf format. View the entire Special Rachel Carson Centennial Edition (4 MB pdf) of Fish and Wildlife News.

I spent the first part of my career with the Fish and Wildlife Service as an endangered species biologist in California. I was responsible for several of California's reptiles and amphibians, some of which, like the San Francisco garter snake, are our Nation's most endangered species. There were many nights when I could not sleep. I would lay in the dark knowing that there was always more work than I could ever do and that, if I failed at my job, these unique creatures might become extinct on my watch. It was a burdensome responsibility. I have always believed that all creatures, no matter how ugly, unlikable, or small, have a reason for being on this planet. We may not always know what it is, but they each have a role to play and sometimes those roles are pivotal.

Eight years ago, I accepted a job with the Service's Environmental Contaminants program (EC). I was relieved to move on and let the next generation of young wildlife biologists take on the high-stress, high-stakes work. What I did not expect was, in some ways, my job in the contaminants program would be even more daunting. At least in endangered species, we were only responsible for the survival of a limited number of creatures. In contaminants, we are addressing the health and safety of every living thing.

One of the first things I did when I joined the EC program was to read Silent Spring. I had heard of the work and knew that it was an inspiration to many of our EC biologists, and I wanted a better understanding of their issues and motivations. I was not prepared for what I read. Her work was moving and her argument sound. It was easy to see why her work had been the catalyst for the environmental movement. She had an ability to explain such a complicated subject in a manner that could be understood by all and to impress upon the reader the need for action. After reading it, I felt I had to do something, just as readers of the book had felt decades before, when it was first released. And now, I am doing something. I am part of the living legacy of Silent Spring, the EC program.

Since I joined EC, I have become a true believer in the importance of this program. In fact, there is nothing more important. It doesn't matter how many acres you protect or restore, how many species you list as endangered or threatened, or fish or wildlife you breed in captivity and release into the wild, if these creatures don't have a clean water, land, and air, there continued existence, and ours, is questionable. I don't know if I can ever leave the under-funded, under-appreciated, contaminants program. I have developed a love of its people and an understanding and respect for everything they do. I am truly proud to be in their midst and I only hope that what I do for the program and, thus, for every living thing, makes some small difference.

Author: Kelly Geer, Environmental Contaminants, Washington, DC

Article reprinted from Fish & Wildlife News. Special Rachel Carson Centennial Anniversary Issue, Spring 2007 (4 MB pdf)

Last updated: February 13, 2013
October 30, 2008