I can hardly believe it has been two years since we held the Conserving the Future conference in Madison, WI. I think back on that event when I need inspiration. There were so many powerful speeches, so much enthusiasm and so much hope for the future. It was a lot of work, too.

It was a stressful week for me personally. My mother called Wednesday morning to tell me Dad had been moved to hospice. I thought I was going to have to leave that day. He rallied a little bit, so I stayed. I was with him the following Thursday when he died. Life gives us all moments that are inspirational and precious, others that are difficult and defining. But we always have to move forward. We have done a great job of capturing the spirit of Madison in our vision document, Conserving the Future. More important, we have made great progress in implementing that vision. Our Urban Wildlife Refuge Initiative is taking shape; our strategic growth policy is under Directorate review; a new communications strategy has been drafted; our Inventory and Monitoring program is growing. The list of accomplishments is impressive. You can find out more at AmericasWildlife.org.

Much remains to be done. Yet, the fiscal challenges we face are daunting. We are going to have fewer people and fewer dollars over the next couple of years. We spent two years crafting a vision for the future of the National Wildlife Refuge System that aspires to do more, not less. But we also spent those years defining what is important.

We laid out a vision of how refuges fit into the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s science–based, landscape–scale conservation framework. We reflected on how we must remain relevant in a changing America and build a connected conservation constituency. We described the leadership it would take. Our vision for conserving the future is focused. We can go as fast or as slow as circumstances allow. But we are moving forward, there is no looking back. So stay focused and positive—because our work is incredibly important. Let’s have some fun and keep on going.