|William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge Oregon||George Gentry/USFWS volunteer
American inventor Robert Jarvik once said, Leaders are visionaries with a poorly developed sense of fear and no concept of the odds against them.
Read the vision document and you will conclude that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is filled with leaders and supported by visionaries among refuge Friends groups and conservation supporterswhose bold ideas will chart a new future for conservation in America.
We could have played it safe. We could have decided that tough times mean keeping our aspirations modest. We could have delayed considering our future until our fiscal situation looks brighter. Instead, the Conserving the Future vision calls for us to make an immediate moral and personal commitment, and we will make that commitment.
By undertaking the vision process now, we have acknowledged that much has changed since Fulfilling the Promise became the guiding vision for the National Wildlife Refuge System in 1999. Today, we face new conditions.
Consider the U.S. population. As of April 2010, 308.7 million people live in the United States, compared with 281.4 million a decade earlier. America has become more urbanizedwith more fragmented habitat and fewer connections to the land. The Hispanic population increased 43 percent in the decade. Today, one in every six Americans is Latino. In 2010, more than 40 million people were 65 or older, up from 35 million in 2000. The trends are expected to continue.
Fulfilling the Promise was silent on climate change, but much has happened since. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Changes Fourth Assessment Report, issued in 2007, estimated that 20 to 30 percent of the worlds plant and animal species are likely to be at increasingly high risk of extinction as global mean temperatures exceed a warming of two to three degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. That report prompted the Service to adopt its climate change strategic plan in 2010, and we are in the process of implementing its fiveyear action plan.
And then theres the way we communicate. Facebook, launched in a Harvard dorm room in 2004, has more than 500 million active users. The first Twitter message was sent in 2006; almost 200 million people now use it. When Fulfilling the Promise was written, we thought social media meant an invitation to a really great party.
The world has changed since we charted our future in 1999. We have had to change, too. Thats the job of visionaries.