photo of Dan Ashe
Dan Ashe

Dan Ashe was confirmed and sworn in as the 16th Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this summer just days before the Conserving the Future conference.

In one of his first official appearances as Director, on July 14, Ashe told conference attendees in Madison, WI, and those participating online across the country that "I am deeply honored to serve in this role. I want to thank you for your kind words and encouragement. I promise you my very best—and ask for your help. We have a lot of work to do together."

In an e-mail to all Service employees days earlier, Ashe said: "Our challenges are many and varied. We face resource challenges, which are national, international and, in some cases, global in scale. Along with our state partners, and the rest of the federal government, we also face serious fiscal challenges. And we operate in an ongoing environment of political challenges to the decisions we make and the actions we take. My goal is to ensure that we will face all of our challenges head on, and draw from them not a sense of despair, but rather, inspiration and renewed motivation to improve and achieve."

In announcing Ashe’s confirmation in July, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said: "Dan Ashe has served with distinction and integrity in the Fish and Wildlife Service for more than 15 years...I’m excited to work with him to foster innovative science-driven conservation programs and policies to benefit our nation’s fish and wildlife and its habitat."

During his Service tenure, Ashe has helped to craft the strategy that will guide the agency’s efforts to deal with the effects of a changing climate. That plan outlined interagency cooperative efforts across landscapes as the most effective way to help fish and wildlife populations adapt to rapidly changing environmental conditions.

Ashe also been a leader in the development of landscape conservation cooperatives (LCCs), which are intended to leverage resources and strategically target science to inform conservation decisions and actions.

Ashe, who had been Service deputy director since 2009, served as the science advisor to the Director from 2003 to 2009. From 1998 to 2003, he was chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System. From 1995 to 1998, he was the Service assistant director for external affairs.

Before joining the Service, Ashe was a member of the professional staff of the former Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries in the House of Representatives from 1982 until 1995.

Ashe was born and spent his childhood in Atlanta, where his father began his 37-year career with the Service. Much of Ashe’s youth was spent on national wildlife refuges and fish hatcheries in the Southeast, where he learned to band birds, fish, hunt and enjoy the outdoors.

"My dad was a respected leader in the Service, and, to use an old phrase, he ’saved a lot of dirt’ during his career," Ashe told the Conserving the Future conference audience. "Ding Darling in Florida and Sevilleta in New Mexico—two of my favorite refuges—are protected today because of his vision, energy and courage. I am proud of the Refuge System I knew as a boy, the System that my father helped build, and I am proud of the one that I have helped to lead."