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Director's Corner

Meet Service Director Dan Ashe.

Refuge Week Shows How Far We Have Come

Service Director Dan Ashe and U.S. Congressman James Langevin of Rhode Island at the Providence Parks Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership designation.
Service Director Dan Ashe and U.S. Congressman James Langevin of Rhode Island at the Providence Parks Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership designation. Credit: USFWS

Happy National Wildlife Refuge Week! I'm a waterfowl hunter, so Refuge Week always sneaks up when I'm preparing (or at least thinking about preparing to prepare) for a new season, and crisp mornings and fresh hope for memorable days afield. As I think about the refuge system of today, I see the refuge system of yesterday and it is truly inspirational how far we have come.  I've had the blessings to visit many refuges this past year, and those visits confirmed my confidence that we've come far.  Sure, we have challenges. Land management is a challenging proposition. But we do it with a particular pride and professionalism, and it shows.

Last December, I had the distinct honor to visit Palmyra Atoll NWR. Up close and personal with sharks, manta rays, melon-headed whales, coconut crabs, and thousands-upon-thousands of boobies and petrels. Here in this remote corner of the world, our work was evident. Rats gone, and coral-killing shipwrecks being removed, we were making paradise even better. And the year is capped as President Obama expanded the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument to become the world's largest fully protected marine conservation unit.

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Hunting and Fishing: Creating Memories for a Lifetime, and Sustaining Wildlife for Future Generation

Director Dan Asheturky hunting. Credit: USFWS

My first duck hunt was as a teenager in New Mexico, trying to call ducks from a blind along the Rio Grande. It was a cold, wet, and exhausting day - but I was hooked from the minute ducks started coming in over my decoys.

Ever since, when hunting season rolls around, I can’t wait to get my gun and my dog, hitch up my boat and head out to the Eastern Shore of Maryland, home to some of the best waterfowl hunting in the world. If the weather is lousy, great! Like all duck hunters, I’ve learned that the worse the weather, the better the hunting will be.

It’s the same for fishing. In the summers, our family would pack up the car and head to one of the national wildlife refuges where my Dad – a 37-year career Fish and Wildlife Service employee – was working. Along with my brothers, I learned to fish at places like Sanibel Island and the bayous of Louisiana.

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Small Group Got the Ball Rolling for Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument

Coral reef
Coral Reef at Palmyra Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. Photo credit: Jim Maragos/USFWS

This morning, I read The Washington Post story -- http://wapo.st/1upyv3V -- chronicling President Barack Obama’s bold action to expand the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, creating the world’s largest marine reserve fully protected from extractive commercial activity, including commercial fishing.  As I read, my eyes focused on the beautiful and familiar photo of a colorful and vibrant coral reef at Palmyra Atoll National Wildlife Refuge.  I’ve seen that picture many times.  And then, I noticed the photo credit – Jim Maragos. 

Jim is retired from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, where he worked in the remote Pacific Islands as our coral reef ecologist.  He was, and I’m sure still is, a passionate advocate for conservation of these special places.  Seeing his photo gracing Juliet Eilperin’s story reminded me of Jim, and of this immortal quote by Margaret Mead: 

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. 

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