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A Talk on the Wild Side.

To Russia, With Love

This blog is one in an occasional series from two U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees currently working in Russia.

Greetings from the land of Tolstoy!  

Maggie O’Connell, Visitor Services Chief of our Midwest Region, and Toni Westland, Supervisory Refuge Ranger at the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, were recently tasked with designing two new visitor centers on Lake Baikal in Siberia, Russia.


USFWS employee Toni Westland admires a Lake Baikal exhibit. (Photo: USFWS)

In order to get the feel of their new and important job, they jumped in (literally) with both feet!

After stopping in the middle of this lake to toast the ship’s first voyage, four Siberian Refuge/Reserve Managers led the celebratory events.

“It was a once in a lifetime chance” said O’Connell, “and we felt we needed to demonstrate our commitment to this project.”

Westland, now living in Florida for over 12 years, was shocked by the cold waters, while O’Connell, now at the Regional Office in Minneapolis, was ready to go back in for more!

“Without public support world-wide for wildlife by trained, dedicated visitor services professionals the public might not understand the importance of the work being done for wildlife.” said Steve Kohl, International Affairs Specialist, “Because fish, wildlife, and plants don’t recognize political borders.” 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Wildlife Without Borders program works with people to conserve nature. We build the capacity of local people to identify, value, and conserve wildlife and their habitats. This program allows the Service to address threats to animals and habitats around the globe that impact our own wildlife populations and the many charismatic species we know and love. We work to reduce human-wildlife conflict, limit the spread of wildlife diseases, support anti-poaching and increase awareness and appreciation of wildlife.

There are amazing refuge managers in Russia just as passionate as we are working to help save wildlife.

Stay tuned for more updates from Maggie and Toni!

Thank you Maggie and Toni! Travel is under the auspices of the U.S.-Russia Environmental Agreement and arranged through the Wildlife Without Borders-Russia regional program of the FWS Division of International Conservation. The Russian government has instructed its Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment to improve access and services for visitors at federal nature reserves. In February 2011, nineteen Russian park and reserve managers visited protected areas in Florida to view and discuss visitor programs and facilities. FWS, National Park Service, and U.S. Forest Service coordinated the visit. Travel expenses for the Russian visitors in 2011 were provided by the U.S. Department of State under the FORECAST Program administered by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). We are glad Maggie and Toni had the opportunity to visit Siberia and offer their guidance and suggestions for improving the visitor experience at Lake Baikal, the world's oldest and deepest lake.
# Posted By Peter W. (FWS/DIC) | 8/6/12 2:04 PM
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