Midwest Region
Conserving the Nature of America

Frank Stone, A FWS Family Story

October 26, 2009


Frank Stone grew up surrounded by skyscrapers and pavement - a city boy born and raised in Los Angeles.  But his father had a passion for the outdoors, and would take Frank camping, hunting and fishing.

"I'm the prodigy of a family that just liked to get outside" he said. "I recall I got my first rifle for my seventh birthday - a 22-rifle single shot."

Frank accredits his interest in conservation to his family, but also to the generation he grew up with on the West coast. As a teenager in the 1960s, Frank was immersed in an unprecedented conservation movement. "It was a time when more and more kids were becoming attuned to natural resources," he said.

After spending two years in the army in the early 1970s, Frank took the opportunity provided by the GI bill to enroll in Cal Poly State University to major in natural resources. He joined the California Division of Fish and Game part time during college, repairing "galvenatious guzzlers" - tanks used to collect rain water for storage in arid areas.

"The Western landscape provides a lot of good habitat for a variety of species, but the one thing the West lacks is water," he said. "I would travel from one guzzler to the next across the region, fixing the storage tanks so they remained in working order for galvenatious birds, like quail."

Frank earned his natural resources degree from Cal Poly in 1976.

"Just prior to graduation, I sent out about 70 resumes, determined to have a job right out of college," he said. Frank recalls the dismay he felt as the rejection slips rolled in. "I would paste the letters on the wall of my bedroom. I used them as a source of motivation to keep me going."  For Frank, his persistence paid off.

He accepted a job offer with the Bureau of Land Management in Casper, Wyoming, and worked in the Big Horn Mountain Range for six months. Lucky for the Fish and Wildlife Service, the West coast lured Frank back to California, where he entered the world of fisheries. "I was always most interested in wildlife conservation, but I thought I would give fisheries a try."

In the spring of 1977, Frank joined the Hagerman National Fish Hatchery crew as a fishery biologist, raising rainbow and cutthroat trout, but the hatchery was struck with a virus, and production came to a halt. So Frank transferred to Eagle Creek National Fish Hatchery to raise steelhead, Coho and Chinook salmon. During the same time, Frank also spent time working for the Vancouver Fishery Resources Office collecting fish for genetic testing. "This was a time in fisheries conservation when electrophoresis and genetic identification were becoming popular in the scientific world," he explained.

In his early career, Frank gained experience at Kooski and Dworshak National Fish Hatcheries before packing his bags with his wife, Sherry, and heading for the Midwest.  Little did Frank know that he would spend the next 30 years conserving, protecting and managing freshwater fisheries. He spent his first nine years in the Midwest Region at the Jordan River National Fish Hatchery in Michigan, the Service's largest Great Lakes lake trout rearing facility. There, Frank was part of a team that initiated offshore stocking of lake trout on identified and historically utilized spawning reefs.

"We partnered with the Coast Guard - their ship allowed us to take specially built tanks full of fingerlings offshore to established spawning reefs in Lake Superior," he said.  "I’m convinced it was this stocking effort that led to the natural reproduction that is taking place now in Lake Superior. It greatly increased the survivability of these fish."  These efforts were fundamental in restoring lake trout to self-sustaining levels in Lake Superior, where they are no longer stocked by the Service.

In 1991, Frank moved eastward along Superior's coast to become the Assistant Project Leader at the Ashland Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office, where he worked in partnership with the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission and tribal natural resources program across the region.  At that time the tribes were beginning to build up their natural resources programs with personnel and equipment, and Frank helped them do just that. During spring and fall of each year, GLIFWC partnered with the Service to conduct walleye surveys, information that was then used by tribes and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to set tribal harvest limits for spearing walleye.

"When you consider the trust responsibilities the Service has with these tribes and the diverse resources they manage, developing these partnerships is a natural fit for the agency," he said. Frank was also part of a team that established the Service's Tribal Wildlife Grant Program. "We started the program about eight years ago, with the intent of making funds available to help tribes build their program, not only to fund staff and supplies, but also on the ground habitat development work."

"In my nineteen years at Ashland FWCO and in working with the tribes, I saw their natural resources programs grow to what they are today," Frank said. "I'd like to think I had a hand in helping them get there."

"The Pacific Northwest is where I fell in love with my wife Sherry, where I became a father, and where I started my career," Frank said. Although Frank's heart has returned to the Pacific Northwest (he currently is retired, living with his wife Sherry in southern Idaho) his career with the Fish and Wildlife Service has left a lasting impression on the natural resources of the Great Lakes and Midwest Region.

Follow Frank's Advice:

Seek motivation from within
"We can be motivated by people, places, and events, but the real motivation that it takes to persevere is belief in yourself. I must thank all of my previous project leaders and opportunities they gave me. I’m a self motivated person and when people see that, they’ve given me the training and direction I needed. Seek motivation from within."

Be geographically mobile
"Living and working in different locations builds your problem-solving ability. By being geographically mobile, you can see and learn from others how to accomplish similar tasks different ways."

Be open to different points of view
"Be ready to work with people of different backgrounds and different interests, and be understanding of the way other people approach problems. The right/best way is not always your way."

Invent your own future
"Don't be timid about trying something different to invent your own future. I'm a photography bug, so I'm usually the one behind the camera. Memories captured in pictures mean a lot, so don’t always be caught behind the camera, get out in front of it."


Ashley Spratt, External Affairs

Last updated: June 15, 2016