New Project Leader at Okefenokee and Banks Lake National Wildlife Refuges
September 16, 2013
Michael Lusk, an 18-year veteran of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the new project leader of Okefenokee and Banks Lake National Wildlife Refuges. He begins his new duties on September 22, 2013.
“Michael has worked for the National Wildlife Refuge System during most of his Service career,” said David Viker, Chief of the Services Southeast National Wildlife Refuge System. “He has successfully dealt with many controversial projects throughout the country, including managing manatees at the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge Complex in Florida and border issues at Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge in Arizona. His varied experiences prepared him for the challenge of managing the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge Complex, our largest in the eastern United States.”
In his previous position, Lusk managed the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge Complex in central Florida. As manager, he facilitated the purchase of Three Sisters Springs, part of the Kings Bay manatee sanctuary, and coordinated with local businesses and organizations to create a management plan. Lusk and his staff also educated visitors about the proper way to interact with manatees in Kings Bay through a Manatee Manners video and kiosks at each entrance to Kings Bay. In cooperation with the Tampa Bay Refuge Friends Group, Lusk also led an ongoing Save the Egmont Key initiative supported by more than 20 local groups. Egmont Key National Wildlife Refuge is a small, barrier island, situated at the entrance to Tampa Bay, which is threatened by erosion.
“My primary goal in my new position at the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge Complex is to support the terrific staff members who have made Okefenokee one of the premiere refuges in the system,” Lusk said. “I also intend to maintain and strengthen the partnerships the refuge shares with people and groups who love the swamp, especially with the surrounding landowners who have such a stake in the successful management of the refuge complex.”
Before serving in his previous position as refuge manager of the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, Lusk was the National Invasive Species Coordinator for the National Wildlife Refuge System in Washington D.C. His responsibilities included bringing resources to field offices to help combat invasive species and keeping Congress informed about progress toward invasives control. Lusk helped provide funds to support the eradication of Gambian pouch rats from the Florida Keys and increased funding for invasive species control on A.R.M. Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuges. Earlier, he worked as a law enforcement officer, deputy refuge manager, and acting refuge manager at the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge in Ajo, Arizona. Prior to that position, he served as deputy manager of Bond Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Hillsboro, Georgia. He joined the Fish and Wildlife Service as an endangered species biologist in Hawaii.
Lusk was born in Plant City, Florida, and raised in Wilmington, North Carolina. He earned an associate’s degree from Florida College in Temple Terrace, Florida, and a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in Fish and Wildlife Biology from North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina. In his spare time, he enjoys wildlife photography, kayaking, and diving.
Established in 1936, the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge is located in Ware, Charlton, and Clinch Counties, Georgia, and Baker County, Florida. It protects a 438,000-acre swamp inside a saucer-shaped depression that was once part of the ocean floor. Native Americans named the area “Land of the Trembling Earth” because peat deposits cover most of the swamp floor, and these deposits are so unstable in some places that trees and bushes may tremble when someone stomps on the surface. The swamp includes a variety of habitats including marshes, prairies, cypress forests, lakes, and islands. A variety of birds and other wildlife can be seen on the refuge including red-cockaded woodpeckers, wood storks, ospreys, American alligators and bears. Visitors can enjoy boating, hunting, fishing, and wildlife observation, as well as many other activities. You can also connect with Okefenokee on Facebook:
Banks Lake National Wildlife Refuge is located near Lakeland, Georgia. Established in 1985, the refuge was established to protect its natural pocosin (freshwater wetland saturated with groundwater) habitat of ancient geologic origin. Visitors can see several bird species including wood storks, sandhill cranes, red-tailed hawks, ospreys, American kestrels, and wood ducks. They also can enjoy fishing for chain pickerel, bluegill, largemouth bass, lake chubsucker, gar, warmouth, crappie and bowfin.
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. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov/southeast. Connect with us on Facebook 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.