Newsroom Midwest Region

Fish and Aquatic Conservation has a new leader in the Great Lakes Region

Aaron Woldt in the field and with his dog Winter
Aaron Woldt in the field and with his dog Winter. Photos courtesy of Aaron Woldt.

We in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are happy to announce that a long-time champion for aquatic conservation has officially taken the helm of Fish and Aquatic Conservation in the Great Lakes Region. This week, Aaron Woldt was named the new Assistant Regional Director for Fish and Aquatic Conservation. Woldt has been acting in this capacity since Todd Turner’s retirement on July 31, 2019.

“I am pleased to have Aaron aboard to lead our Fisheries program. His deep knowledge of fisheries and aquatic resources both in the Great Lakes and in the Upper Mississippi River, combined with his strong partnership skills, make him well-suited to lead this team of professionals,” said Regional Director Charlie Wooley.

For more than seven years before his acting role started last summer, Woldt was the Deputy Assistant Regional Director for Great Lakes Region Fish and Aquatic Conservation and focused his energy on providing administrative and budget support for 16 field stations and four substations, as well as supervising a regional office-based support staff of administrative and budget professionals. As deputy, Woldt developed regional policy and guidance for this extensive program, supported senior-level management as delegated national lead for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Asian Carp Program and served as Acting Sea Lamprey Control Program Supervisor.

While Woldt understands how to step down national priorities, he also knows the reality of working in the field and can ground truth those high-level goals, creating tangible objectives that make sense on the ground. Prior to serving as deputy, Woldt spent four years as Regional Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office Program Supervisor and another seven years at the Alpena Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office in various capacities. From staff fishery biologist and treaty fishery unit coordinator, to assistant project leader and vessel manager Woldt’s field experience runs deep.

One of Woldt’s best attributes is his perspective. Not only does he know what it’s like to work within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, up and down the chain of command, Woldt also understands what it’s like to work as a state partner. From 1998 to 2002, Woldt worked for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources as a field-based fisheries research biologist where he evaluated lake trout and lake whitefish stocks in Lake Huron and helped define safe harvest levels for fish stocks in inland lakes of northern Michigan.

“I’ve known Aaron since he started with Michigan DNR. He’s been involved in field assessments, research, invasive species, broad Great Lakes-based collaborations, and most importantly, he’s a good listener and partner with state agencies and other entities,” said Michigan Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Division Chief Jim Dexter.

Woldt grew up in Kaukauna, Wisconsin, a rural town in the northeastern part of the state. It was here where Woldt first developed a love of the outdoors, the Great Lakes and the Green Bay Packers. Woldt spent much of his childhood along the banks of the Fox River and fishing for yellow perch, walleye, northern pike, sunfish and muskie on inland lakes of northern Wisconsin.

“Some of my earliest memories are fishing, swimming and waterskiing with my family on Pelican Lake in northern Wisconsin. I distinctly remember the respect my grandfather showed toward aquatic resources. I was taught that natural resources were to be shared and enjoyed by all, so only catch what you plan to use,” said Woldt.

Woldt’s childhood memories didn’t stop at the border with Canada, he remembers summer camping trips to Quetico and Voyageur Provincial Parks in Ontario too. He remembers his first time experiencing true wilderness. Even though it was devoid of the usual hum of man-made sounds, it was anything but quiet. Woldt has fond memories of listening to wolves howl under starry skies.

As long as he can remember, Woldt wanted to be part of conserving America’s natural places and resources. From early on in his academic life, Woldt wanted to help protect those lakes, rivers, forests and fields for everyone to enjoy.

Woldt has a bachelor’s degree in Marine Science and Biology from the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida. During his time in Florida, he adventured in the back waters of the Everglades and Big Cypress Swamp and actually saw, from a distance, a wild Florida panther which was rare for that time.

Woldt built on his formative undergraduate years by heading to the cold waters of Michigan. He earned his master’s degree from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where he did research on the production of juvenile steelhead and salmon in northern Lake Michigan tributaries and the potential impacts of hydroelectric dams. During his graduate work on the Little Manistee River, Woldt met his first U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employee, Fish Biologist Ellie Koon. Koon introduced him to the world of sea lamprey and the agency’s fight to control them in the Great Lakes. While we’ve made a lot of progress in that regard since the late 90s, he knows that the battle isn’t over.

President Teddy Roosevelt is one of Woldt’s conservation heroes and he notes that Roosevelt’s words have often hit home with his own feelings regarding wild and natural places. One of Woldt’s favorite quotes attributed to Roosevelt is from his 1910 speech before the Colorado Livestock Association, “The nation behaves well if it treats the natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased, and not impaired, in value.”

Together with his wife Tammy, Woldt instills these beliefs in his kids. With their rescued Siberian husky, Winter, the whole family gets outside as much as possible. In his spare time, Woldt enjoys biking, hiking, fishing, cooking and live music. He also enjoys coaching his son’s youth football and baseball teams, as well as his daughter’s softball team. Trying to keep up with all of his kids’ activities keeps Woldt busy, but he still makes time for his personal passion, the Green Bay Packers.

“By nature of my birth near Titletown, home of the 13 time NFL Champion Green Bay Packers, I am an avid football fan to say the least. GO, PACK GO!” said Woldt enthusiastically.