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The Mountain-Prairie Region


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
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Lakewood, Colorado 80228

March 27,2003

Betsy Lordan

Matt Kales
(303)236-7917, x257

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Names National Wildlife Refuge System Manager of the Year; Employee of the Year

The manager of one of the largest and most complex refuge systems in the nation, and the administrative officer at a refuge in the Rocky mountains, have won national recognition from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for their contributions.

Each year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recognizes outstanding staff at national wildlife refuges around the country. The 2003 Refuge Manager of the Year is Mike Rearden, who manages the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. The 2003 Refuge Employee of the Year is Ann Blakley, an administrative officer at the National Elk Refuge in Wyoming.

"I am continually impressed by the dedication of the staff at national wildlife refuges around the country," said Steve Williams, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "Anyone who’s ever visited a refuge knows how passionately the employees feel about their work. They are on the front lines when it comes to conserving our nation’s wildlife.

"This year’s winners, Refuge Manager Mike Rearden and refuge employee Ann Blakley, epitomize what we all strive for," Williams added. "Mike has done a superb job of outreach to key partners the Native American villages on his refuge. Ann has used her administrative talents to support other staff at National Elk Refuge, and to keep the refuge running smoothly."

Mike Rearden has spent 27 years in Alaska with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The refuge he manages spans nearly 20 million acres. He works with 36 tribal village governments as well as the State of Alaska to manage the refuge’s fish and wildlife resources, and oversees a budget of more than $3.3 million.

Mike’s accomplishments at Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge include handling disastrously low salmon runs, and working with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the Yup’ik Eskimos to come up with a recovery plan. Many in the local subsistence fishing community had never had to deal with fishing restrictions before.

As noted by Ivan M. Ivan, chairman of the Association of Village Council Presidents, “Because of the strong cultural ties and the high degree of dependence on a subsistence way of life for the Yup’ik residents of this region, many resource programs have the potential to be very controversial.” Ivan also said that Mike has been instrumental in developing management plans for moose and geese that address the concerns of local subsistence hunters.

His work in identifying important habitat for Emperor Geese and in minimizing the impacts of off-road vehicles on the refuge have won praise from groups such as The Conservation Fund and The Nature Conservancy.

Ann has worked with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for 18 years, serving in Arkansas, Wyoming, Illinois and Florida. An Arkansas native, she showed an aptitude in school for math and computer science, and the skills she mastered have served her well in her Federal career.

Her job responsibilities at National Elk Refuge run the gamut from purchasing 4,000 tons of alfalfa pellets for the elk to eat during the winter; to providing administrative and budgetary support for the Elk and Bison Herd Environmental Impact Statement team; to overseeing regional audits.

In 1996, Ann was part of the refuge task force that handled construction of a new, 6,400 square-foot office building. Although she had little experience in dealing with contracting supplies, her background in purchasing and personnel regulations enabled the task force to complete the building at a fraction of what it would have cost to contract the project out.

Ann enjoys training new administrative field staff; designing new computerized methods of tracking age-old refuge activities, such as feeding and hunting elk; and finding funding for critical projects in an era of doing more with less. Last fall, she was named Woman of the Year by the Jackson Hole Business and Professional Women’s Club.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 540 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies

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