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Director's Corner

Meet Service Director Dan Ashe.

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.


Ed Grace and Operation Crash up for a Sammie

 Ed Grace

This week we found out that our own Law Enforcement Deputy Chief Ed Grace and his Operation Crash team were named a finalist in the  “Oscars” of government service.

Ed and team were nominated in the Homeland Security and Law Enforcement category of the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals. Named after the founder of the Partnership for Public Service, the prestigious Sammies highlight the best work of our country’s dedicated public servants.

And no one is more deserving than Ed and team, who helped shine the national spotlight on the evils of wildlife trafficking with Operation Crash.

Actually, they did far more than bring the issue to light.

Recognizing early on the growing dangers of wildlife trafficking, both to biodiversity in general and to the future of some of the world’s most celebrated animals, Ed began planning Operation Crash. Crash is the name of a group of rhinoceroses, one of the animals being driven toward extinction by greedy and ruthless poachers who are themselves driven by demand that won’t die.

In February 2012, Ed’s brainchild first came crashing down on the trafficking world. So far, the ongoing nationwide criminal investigation led by Ed and our Office of Law Enforcement has led to 41 arrests, 30 convictions. The investigations, made up of agents from multiple regions and supporting federal agencies, has also seized more than $75 million in rhino horn and tusks of elephants, another charismatic animal threatened by poachers.

The investigations have “reverberated globally,” says Marshall Jones, a senior adviser at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. “Ed Grace’s investigations have helped put pressure on” China, a large consumer of ivory and rhino horn, Jones says.

Operation Crash also shows would-be smugglers in the United States that wildlife laws have sharp teeth, and Ed’s tenacious leadership has not only put smugglers behind bars but created a real deterrent – people see the consequences of illegal wildlife trade. And thanks to Ed, that consequence is now often prison!

“For a long time, wildlife crime wasn’t treated as a serious crime even though it had become a lucrative business tied to organized crime,” Ed says. “We are now bringing these traffickers to justice.”

“It’s an honor to do this work that I’m passionate about and I believe it’s making a difference,” Ed adds. “If 20 years from now these species are surviving, I’ll know that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service helped make that happen.”

The honor is mine, Ed, and  that of everyone who has the privilege to work with you.

While the problem of wildlife trafficking is definitely global, the United States has an obligation to take action – much of the illegal trade occurs within the United States, crosses our borders or involves American citizens.

Thanks to Ed Grace and Operation Crash, not only are we taking action; we’re succeeding.


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