Thoughts on This Month's Refuge Week from Regional Director Cindy Donhner
October 11, 2012
Cindy Dohner gets her goose on at Hobe Sound with Refuge Manager Bill Miller. See more of Cindy's photos.
There is no doubt that life in the 21st century is stressful. Information is coming at us from every direction; managing traffic requires a strategic plan complete with “windows of opportunity,” our family schedules are booked to the hilt with outside activities. At work, it’s not much better--we have so much to do that our lists need lists! The question before us every day is “work/life balance,” how to maintain our equilibrium in the midst of the pressures of modern life. I say one answer is that we “take Refuge.” Literally. And there’s no better time to do it than this month, during National Wildlife Refuge Week, October 14-20.
While the demands on our time are great, we in the Fish and Wildlife Service are blessed to work for an organization that manages the very places that can restore us in body, mind and spirit. I’ve been on the road visiting our southeastern National Wildlife Refuges in the past few weeks, as has Mark. I’ve been to Carolina Sandhills, Alligator River, Clark’s River, Pocosin Lakes, Hobe Sound, and the National Key Deer Refuge Complex, with fly-overs of Pea Island and Currituck NWRs; and Mark visited Savannah NWR and was at Tensas River NWR for a hunting and fishing festival and dedication. We both have been reminded once again that our Refuges are places that help remind us of why we do what we do. They put things in perspective, while also providing outdoor recreational pursuits that can satisfy every age group and every interest. You want to fish or hunt? There’s a Refuge for that. You want to take photos of wildlife? We’ve got you covered. (Take a look at a few of mine!) You want to do absolutely nothing but take in the great outdoors minus freeway exhaust fumes? There’s plenty of room to breathe at our Refuges, and at least one Refuge in every state in the Region and the nation.
Whether our work for the Southeast Region is growing fish, providing admin support, recovering imperiled species, preventing crime, writing press releases, or managing budgets, our National Wildlife Refuges belong to all of us. As a Region and as a Service, we are a family whose members have many different roles to play, but who are interdependent with one another for our ultimate mission success.
Ecological Services, for example, is helping to lead the development of three proposed new National Wildlife Refuges in three southeastern states. Fisheries, Science Applications, Migratory Birds, Ecological Services, and the Refuges program are collaborating on proposals in support of the new $5.4 million "Cooperative Recovery Initiative" aimed at preventing extinctions and showing success relative to endangered and threatened species conservation on and around National Wildlife Refuges.
We also have cross-program support for a critically important carbon sequestration project underway involving three Refuges—Alligator River, Pocosin Lakes, and Great Dismal Swamp. These three Refuges (the first two of which are in the Southeast) cover 375,000 acres and comprise the largest ownership of pocosin wetlands in the eastern United States. Under natural conditions, these carbon-rich peat soils soak up rainfall, and the vast stores of carbon they contain remain stable, locked away in the deep soils that reach 12 feet or more below the surface. Without enough water, the peat dries up and releases carbon into the atmosphere. When released, carbon (as a greenhouse gas) significantly contributes to climate change and is also a major and costly fire hazard. Fire suppression at these three Refuges has cost $50 million since 2008. Our Refuges and the Ecological Services program are working with multiple partners, including NGOs, Federal agencies, and universities, to share scientific and funding resources that will help us to ensure that this pocosin carbon continues to be locked away for the sake of wildlife and people.
Like any family, we not only have the responsibility to support one another but also the pleasure of celebrating one another’s milestones and accomplishments. One accomplishment certainly worth heralding is the recent addition of two Refuges to the National Wildlife Refuge System. Valle de Oro and Rio Moro NWRs in New Mexico became the 559thand 560th Refuges added to our 150 million-acre system of lands and waters set aside to conserve our nation’s wild life and wild places.
Our National Wildlife Refuges contribute to many aspects of our American quality of life, including to local economies. Our Refuges are attracting some 45 million visitors each year, 90 percent of whom reported in a survey of 10,000 adult participants satisfaction with refuge recreation, information and education, public service, and conservation. We are three-quarters of the way through 2012. If you aren’t numbered among the visitors to a National Wildlife Refuge this year, now’s the time to treat yourself and your family to a respite from the cares of the world. Take Refuge—I guarantee you will come back inspired to keep on doing great things for fish, wildlife, plants and people.
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov. Connect with our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/usfwssoutheast, follow our tweets at www.twitter.com/usfwssoutheast, watch our YouTube Channel at http://www.youtube.com/usfws and download photos from our Flickr page at http://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwssoutheast.