The new year begins with a new team at the top of the National Wildlife Refuge System and all leadership eyes trained on the Conserving the Future implementation.
In late October, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe announced the selection of Jim Kurth as chief of the Refuge System. Soon thereafter, Kurth selected Cynthia Martinez as deputy chief.
Kurth assumed his new post immediately; Martinez is scheduled to begin her new duties in late January.
Kurth, a 32year veteran of the Refuge System, had been its deputy chief since 1999. He succeeds Greg Siekaniec in the Refuge Systems top management position. Siekaniec, who served as chief from 2009 until July 2011, is now the Services deputy director for policy.
Jim is the ideal person for this position, said Ashe. His depth of experience with the National Wildlife Refuge System and demonstrated strong leadership are just what the Fish and Wildlife Service needs as we begin implementation of the Conserving the Future document.
At a gathering of employees at the Refuge Systems Washington Office shortly after his appointment as chief, Kurth made clear that implementing the Conserving the Future vision is a high priority.
This is a compelling document, he said, holding up the 93page booklet. There couldnt be a more compelling time for me personally to lead this organization.
He mentioned two challenges the Refuge System faces: how to engage the public and how to manage the Refuge Systems growth.
How we remain relevant in a changing America is a big deal, he said. We have to groom and mentor the next generation of conservation leaders.
And, he said, probably one of the most important issues we face is how to continue to grow the Refuge System in a balanced and intelligent way.
From 1994 to 1999, Kurth managed the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. He began his Refuge System career in 1979 and has held posts at Mississippi SandhiIl Crane Refuge, MS; Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee Refuge, FL; Bogue Chitto Refuge, LA; Seney Refuge in Michigans Upper Peninsula; and Ninigret Refuge, RI.
Martinez, an 18year Service veteran and former manager at Desert National Wildlife Refuge Complex in Nevada, came to the Refuge Systems Washington Office in September 2010 as chief of the Division of Visitor Services and Communications. She oversaw the team that forged the Conserving the Future process and orchestrated last summers conference in Madison, WI.
Previously, Martinez worked as a fishery biologist and assistant field supervisor for the Southern Nevada Field Office. She began her Service career in the Student Conservation Education Program (SCEP), working as an assistant contaminants specialist in the Arizona Ecological Services Field Office.
Our experiences and backgrounds complement and balance one another, Martinez wrote in a message to Refuge System staff. Jim is a Midwesterner with long Washington experience. I am a product of the desert Southwest, with a love of wideopen spaces and rare desert fish. On one issue, we fully agree: Implementation of the Conserving the Future vision will be an exciting and exhilarating adventure that will bring new partners into conservation and renewed attention to the Refuge System.