Director Visits Neosho National Fish Hatchery
Thanks to the suggestion of the Midwest Regional Director Tom Melius, the Neosho National Fish Hatchery had the honor of welcoming Dan Ashe, the Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to greet, meet, eat and see what we’re all about. Arriving right as the noon bell rang, Mr. Ashe was greeted immediately upon entering the visitor center by about 40 people – guests, volunteers and staff members. On hand were representatives from U.S. Senators Claire McCaskill’s and Roy Blunt’s offices, as well as Congressman Billy Long and the Mayor of Neosho, Richard Davidson and his wife. Always one with a smile, handshake and a hug, hatchery Manager David Hendrix officially announced our guest to the crowd, and invited everyone to mingle and introduce themselves.
As exciting as it was to welcome our distinguished visitors, another powerful presence was in the air. Thanks to the generous support from our fabulous Friends group, the smell of barbecued brisket began to dominate the room, and thankfully it was time for lunch to begin. After an invocation by Mr. Hendrix, everyone helped themselves to the tasty food, catered by a local market, and enjoyed fellowshipping with each other. A magnificently decorated cake, donated by the local Walmart, capped off the meal in style.
After appetites were satisfied and conversations died down, those that remained were encouraged to introduce themselves and say a word or two. Despite having no prepared speech, the Director then addressed the group with some important points. He was quick to point out the power of partnerships, both with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a whole, and also on the local level here at the hatchery. Pointing out the wonderful hosting help the Friends Group provided, Mr. Ashe emphasized that the jobs we all do are made more efficient and more effective by uniting causes with other organizations.
In a display showing the work on our current visitor center, Mr. Ashe reiterated its headline that the hatchery, and indeed the whole Service, is “not about the past, but about the future.” He stressed the importance of bringing up the next generations of conservationists and encouraging their input and contributions to make our country’s fine resources even better. He also brought up the current Farm Bill and how it is highlighting the importance of water quality and the restoration of our aquatic resources – both topics that directly influence this, the oldest operating federal hatchery still serving the country.
To conclude the visit, a walking tour of the grounds ensued. We stopped by the endangered mussel room, the pallid sturgeon brood and young buildings, the trout ponds and saw our newest plans for raising endangered Topeka shiners. Director Dan Ashe left after his three hour visit in good spirits. He called the Neosho National Fish Hatchery a real “jewel” in Missouri and for the Service, and considered it to be a “core asset” with its beautiful setting, community support, growing endangered species recovery work and rainbow trout program.
-- Bruce Hallman, Environmental Education Specialist
Neosho National Fish Hatchery