National Wildlife Refuge System

Chief’s Corner

Tomorrow Is Yours to Change

photo of Greg Siekaniec
Greg Siekaniec

Change is the only constant.

Leadership has always been a rather intangible quality that frequently yields measurable results.

That quotation is attributed to the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus, who lived about 2,400 years ago. He might as well have been talking about the National Wildlife Refuge System of today.

Since last winter, five of the eight regional chiefs of refuges—an unprecedented number—have announced their retirements or accepted other jobs.

The five—Jon Andrew, Tony Leger, Carolyn Bohan, Todd Logan and Chris Pease—have served with distinction, as has Brian McManus, the chief of the Refuge System Fire Program, who has also announced his retirement. Those personnel moves may well be the tip of an iceberg about to hit. According to a workforce planning report completed in October 2009, 19 percent of the Refuge System’s employees plan to retire by 2014—and that was before a federal pay freeze was announced.

Although it is unknown whether a significant exodus of Refuge System employees will occur, the question remains: Are we prepared?

The massive change in the ranks of regional refuge chiefs will set a different tone for the Refuge System. While our mission is everlasting, the way we discharge it is influenced not only by science and sound wildlife management practices but also by the experiences that top managers bring. So, we fully expect that a cadre of new regional refuge chiefs will bring fresh ideas, new approaches and different emphases to a range of programs and issues. Innovation, after all, is the lifeblood of any enterprise—whether private or public.

Which brings me to Conserving the Future: Wildlife Refuges and the Next Generation, the process by which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is creating a reinvigorated vision to guide the Refuge System for the next decade or so. One chapter of the draft vision, now online at, focuses on leadership in a landscape of change. Not only must the Refuge System of today deal with environmental challenges, it also must deal with myriad societal changes. Consider just one: Some futurists have predicted that, in coming decades, the entire body of human knowledge will double every week. What would that mean for wildlife management?

As an essay by former Service Director Lynn Greenwalt in this issue and other articles about people connecting with people suggest, leadership has always been a rather intangible quality that frequently yields measurable results. That´s why the Conserving the Future vision chapter on leadership and your comments on its recommendations are especially crucial. But that chapter is not the only one that needs your consideration and reaction.

The Refuge System confronts a host of uncertainties, as we have throughout our 108–year history. Yet, one tenet has been unwavering: We owe the American people hard work, integrity, fairness and a voice in the protection of their resources. The Conserving the Future process gives all of us—Refuge System employees, Friends, partners, visitors, taxpayers—a chance to make our voices heard. Don’t let the chance pass you by.

Back to Index

Refuge Update March/April 2011

Last updated: April 12, 2011