Southwest Region
Conserving the Nature of America

Regional Director's Corner

Dr Benjamin Tuggle
The ability to look beyond our own jobs and our own programs and make a broader contribution. In essence, it means modeling our behavior to function as
“One Service
One Region”
About the Regional Director
About the Deputy Regional Director

Current Student Opportunities in Region 2

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) employs many students in various career and educational fields. The Student employment program is a way to attract talented students to work with the Service and it's an opportunity for students to continue their education and apply their academic studies to on-the-job experience. Visit our Student Opportunity page for current student positions.

Highlight Series
In the coming months, the Southwest Region will highlight each of its programs as a means to introduce the extraordinary activities that the Region's staff bring to the diverse habitats, species and conservation efforts within its boundaries. The next in the series is Migratory Birds.

Read Highlight Series Archives


continued from the homepage... 2014 Recovery Champions

2014 recovery champions
Tony Amos collect data on species along the Texas coast; and Dr. Benjamin Tuggle, Southwest regional Director, congratulates Cyndee Watson on receiving the 2014 Recovery Champion Award. Photo credit: USFWS.

Cyndee Watson’s work has been invaluable to recovery efforts for 16 karst invertebrate species.   She is instrumental in innovative recovery planning for these species and for the past ten years collaborated with local communities, researchers, and a wide variety of stakeholders to promote its conservation.  Her efforts helped raise awareness of the importance of their habitats and led to the protection of several significant karst preserves.  From hosting meetings and workshops for cave and karst experts, to attending and participating in national conferences, Cyndee lead the way in sharing information and encouraging collaboration among all who are interested in karst conservation. 

The Region’s second recipient, Tony Amos, has been a major contributor as a partner to our knowledge of shorebirds, sea turtles, and manatees and invaluable to recovery efforts for various species. For more than 30 years, he compiled an incredible long-term data set of bird and sea turtle observations for the Central Texas coast.  This data set contains information on species of special interest to the Service, including the federally-listed piping plover, red knot, and five sea turtle species.  These surveys provided key information about winter piping plover natural history necessary to recovery planning efforts of the Service.  Through these surveys numerous Kemp’s ridley sea turtle nests have also been detected and protected, helping to facilitate the recovery of this species as well.  His tireless efforts to rescue and rehabilitate sea turtles and birds, including piping plovers, red knots, brown pelicans, and even bald eagles has made Tony an outstanding spokesman for wildlife conservation in the Texas Coastal Bend region.

Dr. Benjamin Tuggle, the Southwest Regional Director, expressed his appreciation to the recipients, “For all that you have accomplished on behalf of threatened and endangered species, and for the encouraging future ahead, I applaud you and I join the rest of the Service in best wishes for your continuing success.”

Congratulations to the recipients of the Service’s 2014 Recovery Champion Awards!


Earth Day Event at Legacy Park

Omar Bocanegra, USFWS, talking with families
Omar Bocanegra, USFWS, talking with families. Photo credit: USFWS.

On Saturday, April 11, 2015, a celebration of Earth Day was hosted by River Legacy Living Science Center in Arlington, Texas. Many organizations were invited to participate, including the U.S Fish & Wildlife Service’s Arlington Ecological Services Field Office. The family focused event was attended by more than 400 people ranging from small children to grandparents. Omar Bocanegra and Stephanie Zuñiga, a volunteer with the Service, represented the Arlington Field Office.

Omar and Stephanie had the opportunity to speak with many kids and their parents about endangered species. Omar spoke about what it means to be an USFWS Education Table endangered species. He also highlighted some examples on how to help protect them. One of the big hits, especially with the parents, were the many endangered species artifacts that the Service had on display including fur boots made from the endangered Ocelot found in Texas, a women’s clutch made from seal fur, mounted owls, an elephant tusk weighting 35 pounds and a sea turtle that can be found along the Texas Coast. The artifacts not only peaked interest, but also raised awareness of endangered species items that are sold illegally and the negative impacts on the animals used to make them.

One of the stars of the show was the office mascot “Ghost”, a Omar Bocanegra, USFWS, talking with families King Snake. After answering a few questions, the kids received a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service sticker badge and were dubbed Junior Rangers for the day!

In addition to learning about animals and the environment, the guests were invited to story time and other fun activities such as face painting, Nature Hikes, and Outdoor Camping Demonstrations throughout the Science Center. Along with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Arlington Ecological Services Field Office organizations in attendance included the Turtle Survival Alliance, Fort Worth and Dallas Sierra Clubs, Marylee with the Master Composters, Cross Timber Master Naturalists, Boy Scout troop 545, Native Plants Society of Texas, and General Motors with a “Green Car” Display. Through the combined efforts of these organizations, the day was full of education and awareness of current conservation issues.


Texas State students interview a San Marcos employee.
Leah Murray being interviewed by the Texas State University student newspaper while discussing the ecology of Texas wild rice in the San Marcos River. Photo credit: Jeffrey Hutchison, USFWS.

Annual Texas Wild Rice Festival

On Saturday, April 11, 2015, the second annual Texas wild rice festival was held in City Park, San Marcos along the banks of the San Marcos River. Texas wild rice is a federally listed endangered aquatic plant that is endemic to the San Marcos River and occurs nowhere else in the world. Along with Texas wild rice, the San Marcos River and Springs are critical habitat for four other federally endangered and threatened species such as the fountain darter, Texas blind salamander, San Marcos salamander, and the Comal Springs riffle beetle. Created to bring more awareness to Texas wild rice and the importance of protecting the river, the festival began as the brainchild of two students from Texas State University in 2014.

Botanists Jeff Hutchinson and Leah Murray were there with a booth representing the USFWS San Marcos Aquatic Resources Center at the event. They set up a 1000 L tank with all the native and non-native aquatic plants found in the San Marcos River in coordination with the City of San Marcos Parks and Recreation Department. Visitors to the festival were allowed to pick up the plants and learn key characteristics. Explanations were provided on why non-native plants pose serious threats to Texas wild rice and other listed species found in the San Marcos River. Jars of preserved fish and salamanders were also on display. Entertainment was provided by several local bands playing music and various talks were given on edible native plants, sustainability, and hydrology of the San Marcos River. At 9:00 PM the festival closed with an interpretive dance by ARTheism and a screening of the documentary film Yakona to a live score of music. The festival was a success with over 3,000 people in attendance.


Photo of Colby Wyatt, Southwest Region Veteran Employee
Colby Wyatt, Administrative Officer at Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge

Honoring Our Veterans

Every year we set aside one day to honor those who have served in the U.S. Military and express our gratitude to the men and women who have made great sacrifices to preserve our freedom. Few have given more to our nation than our military Veterans, both in peace and in war. This is why we observe Veterans’ Day.

We take special pride in those Veterans who work for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The men and women who have served in the armed forces exemplify a commitment to serving this nation. They continue their service to the American people by bringing their skills, knowledge, experiences and dedication to our conservation mission.

I would also like to express my personal appreciation to, and admiration for, our Veterans, and the many other members of our Service family, who continue to serve in the National Guard and Reserves. We owe them a debt of gratitude for all that they have done– and continue to do – to conserve our nation’s treasured natural resources.

Photo of Tiffany Rollins, Southwest Region Veteran employee
Tiffany Rollins, Grants Fiscal Specialist for the Wildlife and Sportfish Restoration Program

To honor our colleagues who have served in the military, we once again have posted photographs of many members of our Region 2 family who are Veterans. I encourage you to take a moment to look at images of military Veterans working for the Service nationwide at our Flickr site.

Veterans’ Day is a time to reflect on the principles of freedom and democracy. We honor and recognize the men and women who have served the United States through their military service. All we can say is a whole-hearted and deeply felt, “Thank you for your service!”

- Benjamin


eagle aviary workshop
Dr. Benjamin Tuggle speaks at the Eagle Aviary Workshop. Photo credit: Joe Early, USFWS.

Native American Eagle Aviary Workshop

In its continued effort to strengthen tribal trust relations, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (Service) Southwest Region Migratory Bird Permit Office held the Region’s first Native American Eagle Aviary Workshop (workshop). On August 19 and 20, 2014, the Southwest Regional Office hosted over thirty workshop participants including tribal officials, wildlife managers, biologists and Service personnel. Aviary managers from the Pueblo of Zuni, Pueblo of Jemez, Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma, Comanche Nation of Oklahoma, Citizen Potawatomi Nation of Oklahoma, Navajo Nation and San Carlos Apache Tribe gave updates and presentations on their activities. Group discussions took place regarding statutes and regulations, proposed procedural changes to permitting, placement of live eagles, disaster planning, tribal wildlife grants, and a question and answer session with the Office of Law Enforcement. “Supporting
these eagle aviaries is a labor of love for us in the Southwest,” said Benjamin Tuggle, the Service’s Southwest Regional Director. “The tribes are our neighbors, and honoring their traditions and beliefs is extremely important to us. To me, the aviaries represent an amazing example of a true conservation partnership.”

Learn more...


Gulf Coast Joint Venture: A Bird Habitat Conservation Partnership (Migratory Birds)
Presentation by Barry Wilson, GCJV Coordinator, 2014, Southwest Region All Employee Meeting

Migratory Birds Joint Venture
Habitat conservation important to priority bird species within the joint venture region. Credit: USFWS.

Barry Wilson describes the origin and current role of Migratory Bird Joint Ventures (JVs) nationwide, with an emphasis on the Gulf Coast Joint Venture and a distinction between the Service's JV Program and multi-organizational JV Partnerships. Details of the GCJV partnership are , including the management board composition, JV staffing, administrative funding, and partnership organization. The GCJV's landscape-level approach to bird habitat planning and assessment requires taking a birds-eye view of habitats without regard to administrative boundaries or landownership, but considering the role of individual organizations and land tracts in fulfillment of landscape-scale objectives. Toward that end, the GCJV employs satellite imagery and

Gulf Coast Joint Venture
View the entire presentation.

spatial landcover data, in combination with detailed information from public lands in a Managed Lands Geodatabase. Details of biological planning, conservation design, habitat delivery, outcome-based monitoring, and assumption-based research for shorebirds is provided as an example of GCJV-led Strategic Habitat Conservation (SHC) for birds.

Learn more about the Migratory Bird Program.




Advancing Environmental Education and Youth Employment in the Middle Rio Grande -
The Start of a Beautiful Partnership for Local Youth

Youth involvement in the natural world through both education as well as employment opportunities has long been a priority area for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service). Here in the Southwest Region, our Regional Director Dr. Benjamin Tuggle has always had a passion for creating meaningful conservation experiences for local youth, especially in urban areas where many young people have become increasingly cut off from nature and wild spaces.

Learn more...

Last updated: May 19, 2015