Taking the Helm with Vision as Guide

I have stepped into the best job I can imagine during a most exciting time—chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System—just as all the stars have aligned for us.

The Refuge System has rock solid support within top leadership. For the first time in my memory, we have a Fish and Wildlife Service Director—Dan Ashe—who says he has “refuges in his blood.” Not only did Dan serve as Refuge System chief from 1998 to 2003, but his father worked for decades for the Service. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar talks about wildlife refuges almost as often as I do.

And we have a Refuge Friends movement that is strong, vibrant and growing.

The hugely successful Conserving the Future: Wildlife Refuges and the Next Generation vision process engendered an unprecedented national conversation about conservation. Now we are moving smartly forward on implementation. Through Conserving the Future, we are poised to improve our science and resource stewardship. We are poised to launch an urban refuge initiative that will enable wildlife refuges to be more relevant to a broader cross–section of Americans. And we are poised to mentor new conservation leaders to help our Refuge Friends blossom in a 21st century America.

As a student of Refuge System history, I well appreciate the role that Refuge System Chiefs—men like J. Clark Salyer, Dan Ashe and Greg Siekaniec—have played in the conservation of our nation’s resources. But every chief needs a good deputy: That is why I selected Cynthia Martinez, an 18–year veteran of the Service and a former manager at the Desert National Wildlife Refuge Complex in Nevada. She came to the Washington Office about 18 months ago to become chief of the Division of Visitor Services and Communications. She oversaw the team that created the ground–breaking Conserving the Future process. She began her Service career as a SCEP in the Arizona Ecological Services Field Office. She brings exceptional experience and a boatload of energy.

Cynthia has worked directly with Friends during her years at wildlife refuges. She understands as I do the enormous and pivotal role of Refuge Friends organizations. With your help and with Conserving the Future as our guiding document, we can move conservation to new heights.