A few days ago, Mr. Greenwalt set this room on fire with his inspiring
words. Unfortunately, he has made it difficult for those of us who've
had to follow him at the podium.
But what he said really hit home and set the tone for the days that
followed. He talked about seeing his old childhood friend Edwin "Drum"
Drummond who has been a maintenance worker at Wichita Mountains Refuge
in Oklahoma for 55 years. And he's still at it. When asked if "Drum"
was considering retiring anytime soon, he said, "No. I'll keep doing
it as long as I can get up into that machine. Because I like what I
do and I know it is important."
This is good. This is what success is built on: a love of the job and
an understanding of its urgency.
Thirty years ago, Mr. Greenwalt served as the Fish and Wildlife Service
Director. Words can hardly convey the honor I feel for having this duty
passed onto me, especially as I have had the fortune of serving as Director
during the Refuge Centennial. That milestone year helped put a spotlight
on the wonderful legacy of the National Wildlife Refuge System as we
usher it into a new century.
I'd like to start by saying how much I appreciate the dedication all
of you demonstrate to the conservation of our natural resources; I appreciate
your passion for our outdoor heritage; and I appreciate your hard work
and your commitment to the National Wildlife Refuge System. This Summit
alone has required real diligence. I saw the size of those binders received:
Just lugging them over here was hard work.
But what a week it's been! And what a century! All of the stories you've
been hearing about the origins and the champions of the refuge system
Paul Kroegel, Theodore Roosevelt, Lynn Greenwalt himself
are what bring us here and lead us to this point. As Greenwalt said:
"The stories are everywhere, which means that they have made it all
happen for us. This legacy carries with it an obligation to commit your
best your work, your thoughts and ideas for the Refuge System."
I believe this Summit is proof there is a great deal of devotion to
this commitment. When we began planning this Summit, I asked that your
invitation list be as broadly representative as possible. You've done
that. Individuals, community organizations, local conservation organizations
and Friends groups they all play a vital role in refuge management.
They are all represented here. These local voices join with national
conservation organizations to help the Service and state fish and wildlife
partners craft conservation plans for each refuge. Such collaboration
and consensus building also helps develop a shared-land ethic.
We do our jobs in conservation because we like them and because
we know it is important work.. This is the common thread that has allowed
us to weave an enormous network of partnerships. Partnerships have been
and continue to be essential to the success of conservation in America.
The Secretary calls the concept her 4C's Communication, Consultation
and Cooperation all in the service of Conservation. I call it
We truly appreciate the opportunity to work side-by-side with all Americans
to save our outdoor tradition. We have seen the tremendous benefit to
finding common ground with partners along the entire spectrum of conservation
I'd like to single out one group in particular for their work with us,
our 230 Friends organizations. We may be able to count the hours they
contribute, but their value to the Service simply cannot be tallied.
Volunteers most of them associated with Friends groups
gave more than one-and-a-half million hours to the Service in 2003.
That's equal to about 720 full time employees. That's extraordinary.
Their participation at this summit has been crucial.
Friends bring to the table a unique perspective. They know the Refuge
System from the inside: from working on refuges, running bookstores,
delivering environmental education, and guiding visitors. And yet, they
bring an outsider's perspective. They can tell us with complete candor
what's right with a refuge's management and exactly what may
need fixing. I know many of the Friends representatives here
people like Molly Krival, Ann Smith, Molly Brown. Just knowing that
these individuals are here makes me confident that you've had frank
and meaningful discussions.
Of course, most of you are Service employees people who are on
the front lines in our fight to conserve the best of America's outdoor
heritage. I am extremely proud of your work in the field. Everywhere
I go, I see your handiwork. From your fight against invasive species
. . . to your innovative breeding programs. . . to your environmental
education programs, you have secured for the American people treasures
they can never calculate.
As we wrap up the Summit, I'd like to reiterate the Interior Secretary's
remarks when she opened this summit: It often helps to look back at
the past before stepping into the future. We talked and talked about
history during the Refuge System's Centennial. Let me make one general
observation: If history is prelude, then the Refuge System is in for
a productive and innovative future.
We've come a long way since an immigrant boat builder and some of the
nation's finest scientists raised the passions of a president about
the indiscriminate slaughter of birds. The ideals of those early visionaries
whose drive and zeal we inherited – laid the cornerstone for
a network of conserved lands that is the envy of every developed country
in the world.
Less than a month after launching the Refuge System, Teddy Roosevelt
boarded a cross-country train for an eight-week trip through the West.
During his trek through Yosemite, Roosevelt wrote that those who appreciate
the majesty and beauty of the great outdoors should join forces with
those who wish to conserve our nation's material resources. The result,
he predicted, would "keep our forests and our game-beasts, game-birds
and game-fish ... from wanton destruction."
The Refuge System is doing just that.
As we build our public use programs, we instill a conservation ethic
in others and the chain that binds our past with our future grows
stronger. By providing appropriate recreation, you've united hunters,
anglers, other outdoor enthusiasts and concerned citizens on behalf
of conservation. As an avid sportsman, I know this to be true; it is
what got me interested in natural resources in the beginning of my career
and it is something I am grateful for now. Each time I enjoy a top-notch
hunting experience on one of our refuges, I strongly re-connect to the
essential conservation concerns: that our wild places must remain healthy.
I'm certain it is the same kind of feeling that spurred early sport
hunters to take market hunting to task. Without sport hunters, there
could be no conservation. There would be no Refuge System.
Today, the Refuge System offers the public something that no television
program or amusement park can replicate or replace: a chance to connect
through rifle or rod or by camera lens and binoculars
to the glory of our outdoor heritage. As Mike Boylan of the Refuges
Division in Alaska likes to say, refuges can help replace virtual reality
with the real virtues that an appreciation for nature endows. In a world
of increasing urbanization, the role refuges can serve has become even
greater. While refuges must be managed carefully to keep the land and
water biologically healthy, they must be managed carefully to keep Americans
engaged by offering compatible wildlife-dependent recreation. Not just
because the Refuge Improvement Act requires it, but because engaged
citizens are essential to conservation.
You've integrated that thinking into your deliberations here at the
Summit. As a result, I think we have a better understanding of what
we are working with now in the Refuge System. We have a strong past,
and now an incredible network of partnerships. The decisions we've made
here will help us grow on this foundation.
I hail your decision to provide more quality hunting and fishing opportunities,
more wildlife observation and photography, and more environmental education
and interpretation opportunities.
You've integrated that concept as well when you emphasized that we must
maintain and improve the quality of refuge habitats over the next five
to 15 years. You rightly identified as a priority the control and eradication
of invasive species and the protection of water quality and quantity.
Your decision to enhance the monitoring of fish, wildlife, and plant
trends throughout the Refuge System melds seamlessly with Leopold's
philosophy and the long-standing beliefs of the Service.
I agree with another of your decisions that the first step is
completion of a system-wide habitat condition assessment to determine
the ultimate effectiveness of habitat management efforts.
From day one as Director, I have emphasized the importance of scientific
excellence. So I was pleased when you identified as a priority the facilitation
of scientific research with management applications on refuges.
Finally, your recommendation that states, local communities and national
partners are actively and effectively involved in designing and participating
in refuge management programs makes enormous sense.
I want to thank everyone for your time and service here at the Conservation
in Action Summit. Your contributions will have lasting impact. You are
land stewards. We know that wild lands and the perpetuation of diverse
and abundant wildlife are essential to the quality of life.
The real owners of these Refuge System lands are the American people.
As public servants, we owe them hard work, integrity, fairness and a
voice in the protection of their trust resources. This Conservation
in Action Summit embodies these concepts and moves them forward.
The Refuge System has and always will be about the future. After all
of the speeches you've been hearing, the break-out sessions you have
participated in, the exchange of ideas and debate the common
theme is the future. I'm not talking just about the next ten or fifteen
years, but in a more abstract sense a vision of the kind of world
we want for our children, and their children; the future that will become
The refuge system is about keeping our natural heritage healthy so that
it doesn't get squandered. Aldo Leopold taught us that land is a community
of life, and that love and respect for the land is an extension of ethics.
If I had to articulate a single broad strategy in accomplishing this,
it would be to get people to care about their environment, to get people
outdoors to appreciate the natural treasury that inspires all of us
here. If we can do that, we can turn heads towards the importance of
keeping our natural heritage in tact and sharing in this vision.
As this summit comes to a close, let it also mark the begin of renewed
dialogue and a continued sense of commitment to the refuge system legacy.
It is, in fact, essential that we keep in touch. As Rollin Sparrowe
mentioned the other day, communication is key and the more we
communicate, the better off our National Wildlife Refuge System will
be. That said, I look forward to working with your over the next months
and the next years to translate your ideas and your ideals into real,
As Ed "Drum" Drummond says: I like my job and I know that it's important.
Obviously, you all do too.