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Summit Overview | Director's Message | Messages from Refuge Managers

Dynamic Start to Shared Priorities

— by Mark Musaus

Photo of Mark Musaus.
Mark Musaus
USFWS photo
The dawn of our second century finds us atop a unique vista. From this vantage point, the Refuge System looks back on a century of achievements that have fulfilled mankind's greatest promise to wildlife. But we also peer into a future obscured by the well-known impediment of limited funding and the newer threats of invasive species, insufficient water, suburban sprawl, a burgeoning amount of "administrivia" and a public increasingly out of touch with nature.

So, when our vision is obscured, where do we look? We have often looked to the past, remembering the "good old days" fondly. But let's not kid ourselves: we don't really want to return to days of Army surplus desks and 'dozers.

The vision of yore was one of looking inward, focusing on great work within the blue goose signs. It was a more "reactive" mode, responding to the day's pressing need. But once we recognized that we could no longer make it happen on the ground with limited resources, we learned not only to be managers, but to become leaders, building Friends groups, meeting Congressional staff, and embracing our neighbors.

That leadership has led to unparalleled progress in the last seven years. The Improvement Act clearly told the Refuge System who we are and what we are to do. The historic Keystone gathering provided a forum for discussion, framed by Fulfilling the Promise. Our recent Centennial celebrations motivated us to tell others what we do and how well we do it.

Now, we need a focused plan of action, crafted with our partners to create a shared sense of priorities, to lead us into the next century. That is the aim of the Conservation in Action Summit.

The summit is not meant to be a static moment in time, but rather a dynamic beginning. Leadership – in our vision, our passion, and our management is required from field staff, the Washington Office, and throughout the regional offices to continue our successes and advance our models of wildlife conservation. Such leadership is developed from the inside.

Many employees have not been pleased with the changes made to the scheduling and size of the summit. But its purpose hasn't changed: This is still an opportunity for all employees to engage, whether or not you are at the National Conservation Training Center. Engage in Web chats when they are scheduled. Give your opinions to your supervisors. Keep up with news about the summit on the NWRS Web site. Once the conference starts, daily updates will be posted.

The challenge for all employees is clear: Do we help chart the next century or do we leave it to others to decide for us?

At the summit, the Refuge System will begin to write measurable objectives and strategies in full partnership with a diverse array of participants. Without our involvement, the commitment embodied in a century of conservation could be diminished. With our involvement, we can develop an attainable, united plan of action that makes things happen on the ground for wildlife. Let's capitalize on the opportunity to make Promises come alive, both inside and outside our beloved blue goose signs.

Mark Musaus has been manager at Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee NWR, Fla., since August 1998. He began his career with the USFWS at that refuge during the summer of 1974 as a student trainee. He has served as assistant refuge manager at J.N. Ding Darling NWR, Fla., Piedmont NWR, Ga., and Tennessee NWR and as deputy project leader at Savannah Coastal Refuges, Ga.


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