photo of Juan Martinez standing by a podium
Speaker Juan Martinez of south-central Los Angeles relaxes on a terrace overlooking Lake Monona in Madison. (Nick Zukauskas/USFWS)

photo of Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar speaking
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar addresses the general session on the final day of the Conserving the Future conference. (Tami Heilemann/DOI)

Over the course of the July 11-14 Conserving the Future: Wildlife Refuges and the Next Generation conference, speakers of all ages, shapes, sizes and perspectives speaking in a variety of forums made inspiring, important and memorable remarks. What follows is a sampling of them.

Primatologist and anthropologist Jane Goodall in a taped message: "It would be absolutely useless for any of us to work to save wildlife without working to educate the next generation of conservationists."

Author and historian Doug Brinkley: "If I tell my regular buddies where I grew up in Ohio that I want to save the whooping crane, they laugh at me. If I show them whooping cranes and how majestic they are, they say, ’We’ve got to save them.’ "

Jim Stone, rancher and board chairman of the Blackfoot Challenge in Montana: "You cannot have landscape conservation without landscape conversation...The political system works very well when we tell our story...You better have everyone at the table, or you’re going to get burned."

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe: "The vision we are writing here will be just words on paper unless you step up when it’s your turn. There are many more recommendations in our vision for conserving the future. I expect action on all of them—prioritized action. I expect progress reports and the continued engagement and leadership of the entire Service Directorate. I expect every Service employee to take personal responsibility. To be successful, we will need the continued support of our state fish and wildlife agency colleagues. Our conservation partners’ support will be critical, as it always has been. And we need our Friends groups, now more than ever."

Mountain-Prairie Region refuge chief Rick Coleman on critical thinking: Step back from the day-to-day, "let go of the crank of work, put your head up, look around and think—about what you’re doing and where you’re going."

Then-Refuge System chief Greg Siekaniec: "We must tell our stories with the heart of a poet and the facts of a scientist as we engage Americans in the stewardship of our land."

Greg Siekaniec: "In conservation science, as in so much of our vision, we will not succeed alone. We intend to be both strong leaders and strong partners."

Service science advisor Gabriela Chavarria on the importance of sound science to the Refuge System: "Our level of scientific accountability must be higher in these times of increased expectations...All employees, not just biologists, must be well-versed in science."

Deborah Rocque, deputy chief, Refuge System Division of Natural Resources and Conservation Planning, on the vision document: "It’s ambitious, it’s inspirational and, more important, it’s doable."

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar on the need to persist in these tight budgetary times: "If we let this time pass us by, if we let the conservation legacy of this country be buried, so goes conservation in other countries of the world."

Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies’ John Kennedy: "It’s important to recognize that...hunter- and angler-based funding supports all conservation, all fish and wildlife, game and non-game species, on refuges."

photo of Greg Siekaniec chatting with students
Then-Refuge System chief Greg Siekaniec chats onstage with four members of the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center class, including fourth-grader Alesha Ouren, who is holding the microphone. (Nick Zukauskas/USFWS)

National Wildlife Refuge Association president Evan Hirshe: "The Gray Goose Battalion"—baby boom retirees—"has the potential to be the mother lode of all volunteers."

Juan Martinez, who grew up among gangs in south-central Los Angeles, on his first wildlife experience at a camp in the Grand Tetons of Wyoming: "There was only one species I didn’t see there: the ghetto bird [a police helicopter]."

Then-Refuge System deputy chief Jim Kurth: "When it comes to leadership, the little things are the big things...It takes courage to share, and leadership is about giving."

U.S. Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen on dealing with both climate change and the social/news media revolution: "We can suffer, we can manage, or we can adapt."

Thad Allen: "The more different viewpoints you can bring to bear on a problem, the more robust your solution is going to be and the broader base of support you will have."

Thad Allen: "Nobody can take our integrity and values away, but we can give them away." Desert National Wildlife Refuge Complex manager Shaun Sanchez: "I want people to experience refuges from the inside. To feel the refuge, to taste it, to smell it."

Former Service Director Lynn Greenwalt on the passion of the Refuge System: "I am convinced there is no Fish and Wildlife Service employee who does not enjoy their job...I wish I could go on this journey with you."

National Geographic photographer Dewitt Jones: "Great visions release passion...You have to move from imagination to ’imagin-action’...Nature shows us that there is more than one right answer...We must learn to ride the waves of change, not shrink from them."

Eco-entrepreneur Majora Carter: My work is to "green to the ghetto...Policy follows projects, not the other way around, when you really want to do something...I believe you don’t have to move out of your neighborhood to live in a better one."

Tweet from Pacific Southwest Region visitor services planner D.C. Carr while Majora Carter was explaining how rooftop gardens in the South Bronx attract birds: "Urban refuges? Imagine a partnership-based NWR entirely on the roofs of urban buildings."

Marine scientist Sylvia Earle: The Refuge System "is like the ocean. Even though there are people who haven’t touched the ocean, the ocean touches them all the time. And the same is true with the Refuge System."

Alesha Ouren, a fourth-grader at the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center, on what she’d tell her classmates who are exploring nature and the outdoors for the first time: "I’d say, ’Look closer. You’ll see more than meets the eye.’ "

For more information about the speeches, lectures, workshops and facilitated discussions at the conference, go to