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With Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity and Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Striving to Embody Our Nation’s Diversity

Nancy Monroe, Tiana Jones  with award fom SigmaThe Service's Nancy Monroe, holding a certificate of Appreciation to the Service from Phi Beta Sigma, stands with Dr. Mario Brown (from left), International Coordinator, Sigma Beta Program; Dr. Philip Harris, Southern Region Coordinator; the Service's Tiana Jones; and Brandon Brown, Special Assistant. Photo by Phi Beta Sigma

Service employees from a number of our programs are in Orlando, Florida, this week taking part in both the 2016 Serious Sigma Summit of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., and the 2016 Grand Boulé of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., annual meetings of two of the nation’s largest and most significant African American organizations.

I am enormously proud of our partnerships with these organizations, which are helping the Service bridge the gap between the African American and conservation communities. Our aim with these partnerships is to introduce new constituencies to conservation.  We hope to provide avenues for all Americans to learn, enjoy, and support fish and wildlife conservation. 

Our mission as an agency entails working with others.  Unless the wild things and wild places in our care are accessible to all people – regardless of where they live, where they come from, or what they look like – we will ultimately fail to achieve our mission. 

Along those lines, we will only succeed if we create an agency that embodies our nation’s diversity. 

Across the country, through initiatives such as our Urban Wildlife Conservation Program and through partnerships like those with Sigma and Zeta, our work is increasingly showing new communities the wonders of nature.  Efforts like these help give communities and organizations a real sense of ownership in the wildlife and public lands that belong to all Americans. These experiences enrich the lives of not just our visitors, but also us. 

The Service’s staff in Louisiana are familiar with Sigma. At Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge in New Orleans, we signed an agreement with Sigma making this the model refuge for similar localized partnerships.  And last summer, we formed a national partnership with Sigma’s sister organization, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, and Southeast Louisiana National Wildlife Refuge Complex created an on-the-ground partnership with them. 

Zeta Grand Basileus Dr. Mary Breaux Wright and Zetas in the Houston area are partnering with the Service through our Urban Wildlife Conservation Program.  This year, they took Zetas and Zeta youth to visit both Anahuac and Brazoria Refuges in southwest Texas. 

In November, at Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey, refuge staff welcomed members of  Sigma Beta Club, the Sigma youth auxiliary, and their advisors. Special behind-the-scenes tours introduced the youth to the many different careers on refuges. The visit also served to establish a personal connection between the youth, their advisers and refuge staff that will hopefully persist long into the future. 

  Dan with ZetasDan with Zeta Phi Beta Sorority members at the announcement of a $1 million investment in John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Photo by Zeta Phi Beta

I had a chance to meet with several Zetas when they helped us celebrate a $1 million investment in Philadelphia’s John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge to foster education and community engagement. 

If we foster these partnerships, and ensure we make diversity a priority, I am confident we will one day look, and think, like the American public we serve.  And the conservation community will be better for it.

Honoring Those Who Protect Us

It is natural for the images and ugliness of the illegal occupation of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon to fade from public attention over time, but the impacts on federal land management will endure.  The quieter, more insidious efforts to undermine the legitimacy of public lands and deprive the American people of their rights have shown more clearly than ever the importance of our law enforcement community.

Across the nation, we’re indebted to those who protect not only our voiceless natural heritage but also the public servants dedicated to conserving those resources, and the public itself.

As we celebrate National Police Week (May 15-21), let us remember the hundreds of federal, state and local law enforcement professionals who gave their lives to protect us. And let us honor the officers, agents, inspectors and all who stand a post for us today. Men and women of integrity like Sheriff Dave Ward of Harney County, who upheld his oath of office under the most difficult of circumstances.

We owe Sheriff Ward and others in the law-enforcement community, like our own John Megan and Jeremy Bucher, an enormous debt of gratitude for ensuring the safety of our Malheur family and the local community in what could have resulted in numerous casualties.

And all across the country – and the world – I want to express my appreciation to the rangers, wardens, officers, special agents and inspectors who put their lives on the line daily to keep us out of harm's way and safeguard the future of our natural heritage.

Thank you for your service, and stay safe.


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Last updated: July 18, 2014