Cynthia Martinez, who was named deputy chief of the Refuge System by Chief Jim Kurth, is an 18year veteran of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. She is a former manager at the Desert National Wildlife Refuge Complex in Nevada and most recently served as chief of the Division of Visitor Services and Communications in the Washington Office. Martinez supervised the Conserving the Future process and conference and helped forge the vision document. Here are excerpts from a recent Refuge Update interview with her.
Q. When you look at the Conserving the Future vision document, what do you hope Service employees working in the Refuge System will take from it?
A. That its a vision. That its at a higher level. Its not a cookbook thats going to tell people exactly how to implement it and exactly what to do. It has to be the compass, and they have to decide how to implement it on the ground at their refuges. Its not so prescriptive that its going to tell them exactly what to do. They need to look at it as the direction, so that were all going to the same place.
Q. What do you hope Friends, volunteers, state agencies and other conservation partners will take from the vision document?
A. The same thing. This document was written by the Fish and Wildlife Service employees and by partners through their comments. We received over 10,000 comments via the Web. We had individual meetings with folks. They need to take the same thing from the document: This is a vision; this is where the Service is taking the National Wildlife Refuge System. Friends, partners, state folks then can figure out what their role is in helping us achieve that vision and get to that place.
Q. As you and Jim Kurth begin to lead the Conserving the Future implementation in earnest, what would you like Service employees working in the Refuge System to know?
A. That this is for everybody. Everyone has a role in implementing this vision. This is where were headed, and its about people as much as its about wildlife.
Q. How can Service employees who are not part of an implementation team best contribute to the implementation?
A. On multiple levels. One basic level is reading the document and then, on the ground at their refuge, asking what can they do within their duties and responsibilities to implement this vision. On another level, they can let the cochairs of the implementation teams know that they are interested in participating in one of the work groups that implementation teams might form. Finally, they can send in their ideas to the cochairs if they have something that they want to make sure a team is considering.
Q. How are Service employees supposed to fit in implementing the vision with everything else theyre already doing?
A. We shouldnt look at this as something else to do. It ought to be more like, How can we change how were doing things? We need to take a look at all of the things were doing and maybe change how were doing them versus doing something new.
Thenproject leader Martinez in 2008 with Pacific Regional Director Ren Lohoefener and thenDevils Hole pupfish recovery coordinator Paul Barrett at Devils Hole at Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge in Nevada.
Q. Why are three of the 24 recommendationsNo. 2 about climate change, No. 8 about a new quadrennial report on the state of the Refuge System and No. 16 about law enforcementbeing implemented outside the team format?
A. There are some things that the Washington Office just has to do. Law enforcementthatll be a contract, and so it will be our chief of law enforcement overseeing that contract. That doesnt mean that, just because theres not a team, you cant send us emails, talk to the chief and say these are things that from my perspective we should include. Same thing with the quadrennial report. We needed to assign that to a Washington Office person; then if that person needs assistance, he can reach out to others. Regarding climate change, we have a [national] climate change coordinator [John Schmerfeld], and that really is his job. So, he will pull in folks as he needs to. We thought a lot about it. Putting these teams together involved discussion at the Washington level and executive committee level. We asked: How many recommendations do we give to a team and which recommendations? At some point we just had to make a call, and that was the Refuge System chief making the call given the way the implementation charter is set up.
Q. As you look forward, when and how do you think well know that weve begun to gain traction on implementing the vision?
A. Thats the $64 million question. I think that maybe the short answer is when we hear people talking more about the National Wildlife Refuge System.
Q. How do you think your recent experience in the field will inform the way you help Jim Kurth lead the implementation?
A. Its critical to have people from the field involved in policy and other overarching discussions that happen in the Washington Office. We need that perspective, reminding us of what its like to be that person on the ground dealing with all of the daytoday activities. Its incredibly important to have that perspective, and especially recent perspective. For example, [Division of Natural Resources and Conservation Planning chief] Jeff Rupert [a former manager at Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma] and I both have been in that seat where somebody says something here and we just look at each other like, Thats not going to fly in the field. Since Ive gotten here [in September 2010], Ive encouraged people to get out in the field, go see folks, go talk to people. With regard to leading implementation, when we get to a decision point, I try to look through the lens of a refuge manager. But its not just my perspective that influences things. Thats why we have people from all of the organizations levels on the implementation teams, where each of the members has the same opportunity to influence and guide implementation.
Q. Since coming from the field, what has been the most surprising thing to you about how the Washington Office operates?
A. Organizationally, how were set up. The most surprising thing is the differing structure of the Fish and Wildlife Service at the regional level and the Washington Office.
Q. The most impressive thing?
A. Our people. Whether youre in the Washington Office, a regional office or the field, the level of commitment, the professionalism and expertise that people have is prevalent throughout the Service. People are very much focused on what our mission is, and they are willing to step in and do what they need to do to be a part of that mission. Regarding the Conserving the Future process, Id like to say thank you to all who are taking part. And Id like to ask everyone to read the words of the entire vision document, not just the recommendations, and answer the question in the documents Final Call to ActionWhich challenges will you accept, and which future will you make?