I learned to hunt and fish with my father, and some of my best childhood memories are of being in the outdoors with him, my brothers and my mom. But my education went beyond skills like building a fire, casting a line or setting decoys to bring the ducks in on a cold fall morning.
Being in the outdoors taught me to respect and appreciate nature, and carrying a rod and a gun in the field helped me develop a strong sense of personal responsibility and ethics. Those experiences in the wild also made me realize how much I wanted to work in wildlife conservation, and set me on the path to becoming Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
I bagged my first wild turkey on a recent hunting trip with Wayne Hubbard. USFWS photo
Every kid should be able to experience nature and have the opportunity to pursue a career in conservation. That's why one of my most important priorities as Director is to work with our partners to help more Americans personally experience the natural world. At a time when our population is becoming increasingly urban and diverse, this effort is vital.
I was so excited to travel to Kansas City recently, where I got the opportunity to spend time with Wayne Hubbard, the host of Urban American Outdoors TV, and his staff. I admire Wayne's enthusiasm, and his tireless efforts to get more urban Americans outside hunting and fishing.
We spent a beautiful day in the outdoors hunting wild turkeys for a future segment on his show. While it was exciting to bag my first turkey, what I'll remember most was the opportunity it gave me to reach out to the urban and African-American communities about opportunities we provide for outdoor recreation and careers in natural resources. I also got to participate with Wayne in a kids' fishing derby with urban youth from Kansas City. To see so many young faces light up when they caught their first fish was truly special. Watching the joy in the kids' eyes and the pride their parents showed took me back to the countless days I spent fishing with my family.
I hope these kids were as inspired as I was, and that some consider making conservation their life's work. And if they do, I hope they come to work for us some day.