Hello and Happy New Year!
The year just ended was a great one for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, for conservation and for me personally. For the Service, we accomplished so much in an environment of political division, fiscal austerity and national uncertainty. I could say so much, but below are just a few highlights:
Evidence seized by Service special agents during searches related to Los Angeles defendants in Operation Crash. Credit: USFWS
We brought down an international Rhino-horn smuggling ring in "Operation Crash," raising international attention to a burgeoning smuggling crisis. We are global.
We established the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area, promising a brighter future for wildlife, water, and a way-of-life (ranching) in this incredible landscape. We are building a 21st century conservation model that marries public and private land conservation. We are leaders.
We renewed and expanded our historical commitment to conserving waterfowl breeding habitat in the prairie potholes, by dedicating 70 percent of Migratory Bird Conservation Fund receipts to conservation in this critical landscape. We recognize and respond nimbly and ably to emerging conservation crises. We are "One Service."
We did not list the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard as endangered, but we used the leverage of the Endangered Species Act, and our policy framework for candidate conservation to gain voluntary conservation on nearly 700,000 acres of lizard habitat in New Mexico and Texas. This effort has sparked similar efforts for other species, including lesser prairie-chicken and greater sage-grouse. We are energetic and innovative.
We delisted wolves in the Great Lakes, and in Wyoming, marking the closing chapters in a historic conservation success, in which the Service has been a courageous and dedicated partner, spanning the administrations of five Presidents. We are dedicated professionals who get the job done.
|A Big Muddy National Wildlife Refuge employee holds an Asian carp. Credit: Steve Hillebrand/USFWS|
We worked as part of an integrated state-federal team to keep the invasive Asian carp out of Lake Michigan. We are good partners.
We stood tall in defense of a Service scientist as well as a Bureau of Reclamation scientist, who were unfairly and unprofessionally criticized by a retiring federal judge in the course of doing their jobs well. We stand by our employees.
We began a process of refocusing our work on explicit biological goals (surrogate species), building the scientific capacities to this, and providing leadership within the broader conservation community. We are science-driven.
We have emerged as leaders in the profession, the Department, and indeed, the entire nation, in building a diverse and inclusive workforce. We are relevant in a changing American society.
I'm proud of the Service and proud to be its Director at this point in time. For sure, we face daunting challenges: a changing climate system; a growing and increasingly affluent human population; expanding energy demand; and increasing commodity prices that will continue to fragment and stress the landscape. However, I am optimistic that the Service’s best days lay ahead.
As we go through this year, let's constantly ask ourselves, "What have I done today that makes me feel proud?" Maybe it's personal and simple, like my New Year's Day accomplishment of getting the lights on my boat trailer to work. Maybe it's a courtesy to a co-worker or neighbor. Maybe it's publishing a manuscript or other official document. Maybe it's taking a kid fishing. Maybe it's signing a 177,000-acre easement donation.
At the National Wildlife Refuge System's vision conference, in 2011, one of the many incredible speakers was National Geographic photographer, DeWitt Jones. He reminded us that we find the vision to take us to the next level, and the passion to keep raising the bar (being better) not by focusing on what's wrong or frustrating -- we all know, there's plenty of that -- but rather, by "celebrating what's right with the world."
Let's make this year better by focusing on what's right with our world: Our workplace, our profession, our community and our country. This will give us the vision, energy and passion to keep raising the bar.
And if I know you, you better be ready, because when I see you next, I'm gonna ask, "What have you done today to make you feel proud?"