The journey to fashion a new vision for the Refuge System took nearly 18 months. It involved the work of about 70 people on five Core Teams plus thousands more who participated online and at the Conserving the Future: Wildlife Refuges and the Next Generation conference in July, and the consideration of more than 10,000 public comments and 240 bold ideas.

Now, the Conserving the Future vision—with 24 specific recommendations—has been finalized and is available online at That’s just one step in an implementation process that is moving forward with deliberate speed.

The implementation process will be led by an Executive Implementation Council, chaired by the Refuge System chief and include the Refuge System Leadership Team, which encompasses the eight regional refuge chiefs as well as the Refuge System’s six Washington Office division chiefs. A full–time council coordinator is to be hired in coming months.

By late January 2012—90 days after the vision document’s publication—the council has been instructed to create an overall implementation plan that will identify individuals or teams and give them specific tasks and deadlines. Three implementation teams already have been formed: strategic growth, urban wildlife refuge initiative and the Leadership Development Council.

Six other implementation teams were being assembled in October. Members were being selected from among approximately 280 Service employees who volunteered to serve. Each implementation team will be composed of about a dozen people. The six teams will focus on planning; science; community partnerships; communications; hunting and fishing; and interpretation and education.

The Focus section of the January/February 2012 issue of Refuge Update is scheduled to be devoted to the vision implementation and announce the final six teams.

Implementation actions or partial actions on all 24 recommendations are to be undertaken within the next five years, according to the charter signed by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe in July.

“In every page of this document, you will see yourself,” states the Conserving the Future vision in its preface. “Whether you are from another federal agency, a tribe, a state, a conservation organization or a concerned citizen, we need you to help us conserve America’s wild things and wild places.”

The vision document seeks to engage all of America in the quest for conservation stewardship. “The conservation landscape has changed, the playing field has changed, and the stakes have changed. Human demands on the environment combined with environmental stressors are creating an urgent need for conservation choices. The scale of issues and challenges we face is unprecedented and impacts us all; no single entity has the resources necessary to address these challenges on its own.”