I am one lucky man.
I’m headed to the beautiful Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge at the south end of Washington’s Puget Sound. I’ll see herons feeding and ducks swirling while eagles watch them and me from nearby trees.
I’m meeting with representatives of two other federal agencies to review progress on one of the signature conservation initiatives in recent history.
Today I get to do two things I’ve always believed to be among the most important things any agency leader can do: get out in the field to meet the people who are implementing policy on the ground, and see how those policies are working.
And it’s Earth Day.
I am so proud – and so humbled – to be here today, representing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and all the work we do and have done since that first Earth Day in 1970 and beyond.
What better way to spend this Earth Day?
Yes, we’re facing some challenges, both biological and fiscal. But we have a history of overcoming challenges. In 1970, on that first Earth Day, Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge didn’t exist: It was a series of soggy, agriculturally marginal diked fields. Today it is the site of the largest estuary restoration in the Pacific Northwest and one of the crown jewels of the National Wildlife Refuge System.
This is all largely because of the work of recently retired refuge manager Jean Takakawa. Jean recognized the challenges and she rose to meet them in true Service fashion. Jean built bridges, starting within the Service, expanding to the Nisqually Tribe, then to elected officials, and finally to the community at large. She formed partnerships that helped her win support, both biological and fiscal, to move the project forward. It’s because of those bridges that I'll be able to stand there today, watching the tides return to the Nisqually estuary.
Like Jean, the Service has a well-deserved history of building bridges to other agencies, of being part of the solution, and of making the most of the resources and resource dollars given to us. Above all, we have a history of passing on the traditions of the outdoors, the value of our natural resources, and the importance of conservation. We are doing what those far-sighted people who chose this day as a way of calling attention to the importance of our natural world wanted us to do: working together for conservation.
I’ve always believed that when our partnerships are strong, we’re strong. That’s why I’m headed to Nisqually today, working with other federal partners, strengthening a partnership begun two decades ago to craft a better future for the Pacific Northwest. Tomorrow we’ll head south into Oregon, then on to California. Along the way we’ll be learning how our partnership is doing on the ground from the people who are making it work.
Maybe I’ll see you along the way.
I hope so.