Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
PACIFIC SOUTHWEST REGION: 2013 Recovery Champions
California-Nevada Offices , May 29, 2014
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Devils Hole pupfish interagency team.
Devils Hole pupfish interagency team. - Photo Credit: USFWS
Jesse Bennett, Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office.
Jesse Bennett, Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office. - Photo Credit: USFWS
Javier Linares, Devils Hole pupfish interagency team.
Javier Linares, Devils Hole pupfish interagency team. - Photo Credit: USFWS
Devils Hole pupfish.
Devils Hole pupfish. - Photo Credit: USFWS
Mountain yellow-legged frog.
Mountain yellow-legged frog. - Photo Credit: Adam Backlin

By Pam Bierce

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recognized twenty individuals and five teams for their exceptional efforts to conserve and protect the nation’s rarest fish, wildlife and plants by designating them 2013 Recovery Champions.

Among the award winners honored for their work from the Service’s Pacific Southwest Region were Jesse Bennett from California and the nine person interagency Devils Hole pupfish team in Nevada.

“We all owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to these dedicated conservationists who are on the front lines fighting the battle against extinction,” said Service Director Dan Ashe. “Their spirit and determination is the application of Aldo Leopold’s counsel to ‘keep every cog and wheel,’ and they provide hope for all of us that our children and the generations that follow will be able to enjoy the same tremendous diversity of plants and animals that we do today.”

Service employee Jesse Bennett from the Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office was selected for his leadership and commitment to improve the status of the endangered Southern California Distinct Population Segment of the mountain yellow-legged frog. His efforts to secure more than $300,000 in funding, in combination with more than $2 million in support from partner agencies have resulted in habitat improvements, amelioration of threats to the species, and greater knowledge of the species’ biology and ecology.

Bennett's proactive approach and dedication has been instrumental to the success of many ongoing collaborative projects. As a result of his tireless work to recover the species through research and on-the-ground actions to reduce threats, frogs are being re-established and efforts are underway to identify additional translocation sites.

"I look forward to continuing work with our partners to recover the mountain yellow-legged frog. Their hard work and dedication to this species has been truly remarkable," said Bennett.

The interagency “partners-in-mission” team working on the Devils Hole pupfish was recognized for their leadership, teamwork and innovation in helping to conserve the Devils Hole pupfish. The team includes:

• Death Valley National Park employees: Kevin Wilson, Daniel Gaines and Jeffery Goldstein
• Nevada Division of Wildlife employees: Kevin Guadalupe and Brandon Senger
• Service employees: Javier Linares (Regional Office), Lee Simons (Nevada FWO), Darrick Weissenfluh and Olin  Feuerbacher (Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge).

The team was formed after the April 2013 Devils Hole pupfish count determined the population had declined to an estimated 35 fish, the fewest ever counted. The team utilized new and creative methods to successfully hatch and rear Devils Hole pupfish in captivity as well as improve conditions in Devils Hole, which helped reverse an alarming population decline and thwart a serious risk of extinction to this iconic species. As a result of their collective efforts, there are currently 30 captive Devils Hole pupfish in a new facility designed specifically for pupfish conservation as well as an increasing population of pupfish in Devils Hole.

"The award means a lot because it’s a TEAM award and so many dedicated people have been a part of the effort,” said Weissenfluh, the facility manager/fish biologist at Ash Meadows Fish Conservation Facility. “All of the folks on the Devils Hole pupfish team deserve recognition, but there were also others who have been instrumental in implementing Devils Hole pupfish recover actions.” Those individuals include Robert Barlics II (Great Basin Institute - Ash Meadows Fish Conservation Facility), Ambre Chaudoin (Great Basin Institute - Ash Meadows Fish Conservation Facility), Jon Sjoberg (NDOW), John Wullschleger (NPS),Miguel Jiminez (FWS), Joey Bauer and Hal Fairfield (Volunteers).

“This award honors those that go above and beyond in endangered species conservation,” said Ren Lohoefener, Regional Director of the Pacific Southwest Region. “The work that these champions do every day to protect wildlife is inspiring. The efforts of Jesse and the entire Devils Hole pupfish team exemplify their commitment and dedication.”

The Recovery Champion awards began in 2002 as a one-time recognition for Service staff members for their achievements in conserving listed species. However, in 2007, the program was expanded to honor Service partners as well, recognizing their essential role in the recovery of threatened and endangered species.

For information about the 2013 Recovery Champions, please visit: http://www.fws.gov/endangered/what-we-do/recovery-champions/index.html.

Pam Bierce is a public affairs officer at the Pacific Southwest Regional Office in Sacramento, California.

Contact Info: Pam Bierce, 916-414-6542, pamela_bierce@fws.gov
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