U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Selects New Manager for Georgia’s Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge
A 23-year veteran of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, George Constantino is the new refuge manager at the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in Folkston, Georgia. Since 2002, Constantino had served as Chief of the Division of Conservation Planning and Policy in Anchorage, Alaska.
“George’s experience as an administrator and as a hands-on refuge manager will be a great asset for the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge and the Southeast Region,” said Sam D. Hamilton, Southeast Regional Director. “His knowledge and networking ability will enable him to work closely with his staff and community leaders to manage refuge habitat for wildlife while improving public use opportunities.”
From 1989 until 2002, Constantino served as Associate Manager of the National Wildlife Refuge System in Anchorage, Alaska. He supervised Alaska’s refuge managers and the regional operational staff. Constantino was refuge manager of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Burns, Oregon, from January 1984 to 1989 and of the Umatilla Refuge Complex in Umatilla, Oregon, from 1980 until December 1983. He has also served as Deputy Refuge Manager of Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge in Lawton, Oklahoma, and of Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Cambridge, Maryland. Constantino was refuge manager of Cibola National Wildlife Refuge in Blythe, California, for two years.
“I feel extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to serve as refuge manager of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge,” said Constantino. “My wife, Flor, and I find the community welcoming, the landscape beautiful, and the network of refuge friends and partners truly heartwarming.”
Some of Constantino’s goals for Okefenokee National Wil dlife Refuge include nurturing the community partnerships that have already been forged, monitoring the health of the Okefenokee ecosystem, conducting safe and effective fire management programs, and implementing the soon to be completed Okefenokee Refuge Comprehensive Conservation Plan.
Constantino holds a bachelor's degree in wildlife management from Humboldt State University in Arcata, California. He and his wife, Flor, have three grown children: Amber, George Jr., and Nick. He enjoys fishing, cycling, hunting, wilderness camping, white water rafting, and serving in civic organizations.
Established in 1936, the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge preserves the 438,000-acre Okefenokee Swamp. Its Native American name means “Land of the Trembling Earth.” Okefenokee is a vast bog inside a saucer-shaped depression that was once part of the ocean floor. Peat deposits, up to 15 feet thick, cover most of the swamp floor. These deposits are so unstable in s pots that trees and bushes tremble by stomping the surface.
The refuge is located in Charlton, Ware, and Clinch Counties in Georgia and in Baker County, Florida. More than 400,000 visitors annually enjoy wilderness canoe trails, an auto tour route, hiking, fishing, camping, and wildlife observation and photography. Some of the diverse wildlife found on the refuge include black bears, alligators,red-cockaded woodpeckers, ospreys, herons egrets, and blue-winged teal.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 545 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 63 fish and wildlife management offices and 81 eco logical services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.
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