Fisheries Program
Northeast Region
Spencer Fullerton Baird. Credit: USFWS
Spencer Fullerton Baird in a boat. Credit: USFWS

Spencer Fullerton Baird

Ever observant of the natural world, Spencer Fullerton Baird once reportedly described himself as:

"A rather lanky, angular specimen of humanity, with red beard, rough hair, crooked legs and the biggest feet in Washington…wearing a long white coat."

Baird’s life revolved around fish, wildlife and natural history. In 1839, while still a teenager, he began chronicling his trips into the countryside and forests of Pennsylvania. Along the way, he built an impressive collection of wildlife specimens, as was the custom of naturalists of his day.

At the remarkably young age of 27, Baird, then a professor at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Penn., was appointed Assistant Secretary of the Smithsonian Institute.  His natural history collection was so large it reportedly filled two boxcars when accompanying him to Washington D.C.

In 1871, Baird was named the first commissioner of the U.S. Commission on Fish and Fisheries, whose primary duty was to restore declining fish populations in the U.S.

The Fisheries Program of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, whose roots can be traced back to the U.S. Commission on Fish and Fisheries, has played a vital role in conserving America’s fisheries since 1871, and today is a key partner with States, Tribes, Federal agencies, other Service programs, and private interests in a larger effort to conserve fish and other aquatic resources.

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Last updated: December 16, 2011
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