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Director's Corner

Meet Service Director Dan Ashe.

Optimism: The Heart of Conservation Past, Present and Future

Conservation, at its core, has always been the ultimate expression of optimism. When we replant a bottomland hardwood forest or release a captive-bred Mexican wolf into the wild, it’s understood that we may not be around to walk that mature forest. Or encounter recovered wolves roaming the landscape.

But we take these kinds of actions anyway, because we’re optimistic about the future.

I believe strongly that we can, and must retain that optimism as a conservation community, despite the staggeringly complex challenges we face across the globe. 

It’s no secret what we’re up against. Increasing drought and other ecosystem disruptions caused by climate change. Widespread habitat loss and destruction caused by development and the spread of invasive species. Spreading wildlife disease facilitated by global trade. Growing water scarcity driven by expanding cities and agriculture. A global epidemic of poaching and wildlife trafficking that is devastating some of the world's most iconic species, imperiling fragile ecosystems and undermining regional security and stability.

These are challenges created by humans. And they will only grow in scale and complexity as human population and affluence grow.  


Latinos Help Make Conservation Happen

In Spanish, hecho means “made.” We’ve all seen the lettering on countless products from Latin America – Hecho en Mexico, for example. Hecho a mano, denoting things made by hand. 

A HECHO poll shows strong Latino support for conservation. Photo by HECHO

It’s uniquely fitting, therefore, that one of the nation’s most prominent organization for conservation-minded Latino Americans is called HECHO -- Hispanics Enjoying Camping Hunting and Outdoors

Why? Because in the most elemental sense, we are all hecho por la naturaleza – products of the natural world around us. Like the world’s fish, wildlife and plants, we depend on the Earth’s natural systems for clean air, clean water, food, shelter, jobs and economic growth. 


We Can, and Must, Help Natural World Adapt to Climate Change

The National Climate Assessment released a few weeks ago puts it bluntly.

“Evidence for climate change abounds, from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the oceans. Scientists and engineers from around the world have meticulously collected this evidence, using satellites and networks of weather balloons, thermometers, buoys, and other observing systems. Evidence of climate change is also visible in the observed and measured changes in location and behavior of species and functioning of ecosystems. Taken together, this evidence tells an unambiguous story: the planet is warming, and over the last half century, this warming has been driven primarily by human activity.”

The scientific debate over whether climate change is disrupting the natural systems that support life on Earth is over. But two questions remain to be answered by human society: How catastrophic will the effects of this disruption be if we do nothing? And what can be done to avert the worst impacts?

 Neal Smith NWR
Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell (second from left) learns about the work going on at Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge in Iowa. Photo by Doreen VanRyswyk/USFWS.

Fortunately, we still have time to act to help wildlife and natural systems cope with a rapidly changing climate – and to protect the web of life that sustains the Earth’s human population.


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