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Jim Zelenak

Jim Zelenak, Fish and Wildlife Biologist

West Virginia Field Office

Jim Zelenak is a fish and wildlife biologist with the Conservation Planning Assistance (CPA) Branch at the West Virginia Field Office in Elkins. He coordinates with other federal and state agencies to ensure that fish, wildlife and habitats are given appropriate consideration during development and permitting review processes. He focuses on coal mining, natural gas, highways, and a variety of other projects that involve potential impacts to federally listed species, migratory birds, and wetland habitats.

Originally from southeast Pennsylvania, Zelenak completed his undergraduate education at Penn State, followed by a summer as an attendant to a peregrine falcon hack-site in Maine, followed by a fall research internship at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary. Next, he participated in spring raptor migration counts in Vera Cruz, Mexico, between Xalapa and the coast, where he was part of a team that first documented the hundreds of thousands of raptors that migrate through that area.

Zelenak then moved west for graduate school at Montana State University, where he researched the breeding population dynamics of ferruginous hawks. After kicking around southwest Montana for a few years stitching together season and temporary work, he took a job with the Forest Service on Prince of Wales Island in the Tongass National Forest, where he helped trap, radio-mark and track wolves and goshawks. That led to his first permanent job with the Forest Service in Ketchikan, where he met his wife, Maia.

After several years in rainy southeast Alaska, Zelenak landed his first Fish and Wildlife Service job with the Fairbanks Field Office in interior Alaska. He worked there for nearly eight years in the CPA Branch reviewing North Slope oil, transportation and land-use management plans and spending much cherished time in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. One month after his daughter Abigail was born in Fairbanks, Zelenak and his family began the move to West Virginia.

In his free time, Zelenak enjoys hanging out with and reading to his 2.5-year old, fixing-up the family's little fixer-upper home, occasionally sneaking off to pursue native brook trout with vintage fly rods and reels, and regularly day-dreaming about his eventual return to western Montana.

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Last updated: February 28, 2017