Science Excellence



2016 Science Leadership Award


Paul Henson, PhD

State Supervisor, Oregon Fish and Wildlife Office

Photo of Dr. Paul Henson. Credit: USFWSDr. Paul Henson is dedicated to a "whole office" foundation in science and he encourages the 75+ staff members at the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Office (OFWO) and its four state satellite offices to find robust, high quality scientific support for the conservation measures the office puts forward, and to make it clear the science supports the approach.

Notwithstanding his strong credentials and capacity as a scientist and journal author, Dr. Henson finds opportunities to empower OFWO employees in major scientific endeavors. For example, he engaged several biologists from the office to play a prominent role in the selection of Willamette Valley surrogate species. Post-selection, OFWO piloted the Pacific Region's first landscape-level application of surrogate species to enhance Strategic Habitat Conservation. OFWO's pilot is now being used as a primary model for expanding surrogate species selection to other landscapes in the region.

In addition, Dr. Henson's been known to create opportunities for staff. In 2010, his office hosted a two-day "Science in the Service" meeting to bring together Oregon-based biologists to share knowledge and underscore the importance of science as the foundation of the agency. This past year, Region One expanded on Dr. Henson's earlier leadership and held a Regional "Science of the Service" event.

Northern spotted owl recovery efforts further illustrate how Dr. Henson embodies leadership by example in building relationships to accomplish conservation goals. During the development of the revised recovery plan, he sought the assistance of internal subject-expert work groups to develop a recovery approach that would address all necessary threats across the diverse range of habitat types within the range of the owl.

He also appointed a team of scientific experts from the Service, cooperating Federal agencies, universities, and industry to collaborate on a spatially-explicit spotted owl demographic modeling framework that could be used to assist numerous spotted owl management decisions. This framework provided the foundation for the development of the 2012 Revised Critical Habitat Rule, which was widely praised by peer-reviewers of the rule for its state-of-the-art landscape planning approach.  

Dr. Henson took an active role not only in reviewing the spotted owl's revised recovery plan but also in writing it – an uncommon role for a project leader. He took the lead on researching and writing a section on the emerging concept of ecological forestry wherein he recognized the importance of the timber industry infrastructure in being able to pragmatically carry out recovery actions.

As early as possible, Dr. Henson made sure to introduce hot topics (e.g., barred owl control, role of fire in the spotted owl range, and ecological forestry) so that stakeholders had a chance to become familiar with the concepts and the science, while the Service could still respond and modify actions based on feedback. Though the final revised recovery plan for northern spotted owl was controversial, there were no surprises in the plan when it was released to the public.

Dr. Henson has also had a prominent role in the conservation of greater sage-grouse in Oregon and the 11-state range of the species. He has worked tirelessly with private landowners and the ranching community to integrate their concerns into viable options for conserving greater sage-grouse while acknowledging the agricultural community's efforts to provide habitat for the species on their lands.   

Under Dr. Henson's direction, Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances have been finalized that cover over four million acres of private and state-owned sage grouse habitat in Oregon. His leadership in sage grouse conservation in Oregon was a strong factor supporting the 2015 ESA not-warranted determination rangewide.

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Last updated: March 21, 2017

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