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A Talk on the Wild Side.

The Next Generation of Wildlife Conservation: Broadening our Perspective

 Lake Superior. CREDIT: Courtney Celley/USFWS
Lake Superior. Photo by Courtney Celley/USFWS

Paul Souza is the Assistant Director of Science Applications. Tom Melius is the Regional Director of the Midwest Region. Here, they talk about the value and importance of Strategic Habitat Conservation.

 Paul Souza
Paul Souza  

The Fish and Wildlife Service has worked tirelessly for generations to conserve both celebrated locations and species and those that are less known but just as important.  We know we are at our best when we work with states, tribes, private landowners and a multitude of diverse interests to set and achieve shared conservation priorities.  History shows the amazing results we get when we work with others to clearly define goals, build and implement strong conservation plans, and then refine the plans to get better every day.

 Tom Melius
  Tom Melius

Some successes have been truly continental in scale, such as waterfowl conservation through the North American Waterfowl Management Plan.  They also include conservation of some of the nation’s crown jewels such as the Great Lakes, Arctic, Chesapeake Bay, Puget Sound, Everglades, Great Basin and Gulf of Mexico.  Conservation successes have also been demonstrated for wide ranging species from wolves to sea turtles.  By investing in science and defining up front what success looks like for these species, we are able to concentrate the efforts inside and outside our agency to make conservation happen.

The legacy of conservation for wildlife continues to evolve and our agency has new success stories to share.  We continue to use a broad, landscape-scale perspective to find success.  The recent and ongoing effort for the greater sage-grouse is one example.  Working hand-in-hand with state wildlife agencies, we first defined our goal as conserving the greater sage-grouse now and over the long term.  This goal drove the identification of Priority Areas for Conservation, representing the amount and configuration of habitat across 11 states needed to conserve the species.  With a common purpose, we worked with others on species conservation, eventually eliminating the need to give the bird the protections of the Endangered Species Act.

Students in North Carolina plant a garden for monarchs and other pollinators behind their school. Photo by Gary Peeples/USFWS


Monarch butterfly conservation is, we believe, a success in the making. 


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This charismatic species has created an amazing groundswell of public support in both urban and rural areas in the United States, Mexico and Canada.  While we still have a long way to go, this unity of purpose has enabled us to tap into a special energy that is producing results after only a couple of years.  We have a better understanding of the migratory needs of the species than ever, and are using that science to build a continental conservation design and restore habitat in the right places that will make a difference for the species’ future.  The monarch also offers a wonderful and rare opportunity to touch the hearts and minds of the public in a new way, broadening our conservation constituency and making the mission of the Fish and Wildlife Service relevant to a new generation.

Our agency’s work across large landscapes continues through these examples and many others showcased during the Practitioner’s Forum on Strategic Habitat Conservation held last year.  The new generation of successes will borrow the same formula that has worked in the past – clearly defining our goals, using science to develop, implementing and refining a conservation strategy over time, and working with others to get more done for our mission than we could do alone.    


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