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Coastal North Carolina refuges recognized by Department of the Interior Secretary for community support

Quick response by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff assisted power-starved communities on Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands

Earlier today, Acting Southeast Regional Director Michael Oetker presented the Secretary’s Commendation Award to local refuge staff, Art Beyer, Rebekah Martin, Becky Harrison, and Scott Lanier, on behalf of US Department of the Interior, Secretary Ryan Zinke. These individuals led the refuge effort to expedite permissions for needed work to restore power to Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands.

Four Service employees in uniform.
Left to right: Art Beyer, Rebekah Martin, Becky Harrison, Scott Lanier. Photo by USFWS.

In a recent email to all Department of the Interior employees, Zinke said the following:

“Today, I would like to shine the spotlight on a team from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that helped save the economy of North Carolina’s Outer Banks. That probably seems like an overstatement, but it is true.

In late July of this year, power to Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands was accidentally cut during a construction mishap. Cables that connect mainland power to island customers were severed in such a way that it would likely take weeks–possibly months–to repair.

For Outer Banks islands just hitting the peak of the tourism season, this accident was crippling. Just 2 weeks without power could put some out of business. After a mandatory evacuation order, 50,000 visitors were resigned to take their business elsewhere. Our own Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, just below Oregon Inlet, was only open to local bird watchers and outdoor enthusiasts.

Fortunately, employees of the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge Complex (the administrative grouping for Pea Island Refuge) took quick action to work with the North Carolina Department of Transportation and Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative, returning power to the Outer Banks in just a few days. They figured out what needed to be done quickly and cleared the way for construction and repairs to get started immediately.

On August 3, power was restored, prompting visitors to return and area tourist attractions, including the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, to reopen.

This is an excellent example of how we can be good neighbors to the communities that surround public lands. When the Alligator River staff stepped up to help the people of North Carolina, they did more than restore electricity. They restored hope to a community that would surely have suffered without their aid.

Four Service employees in uniform.
Left to right: Michael Oetker, Becky Harrison, Rebekah Martin, Scott Lanier and Art Beyer. Photo by USFWS.

In light of these actions, I have presented the Secretary’s Commendation Award to the following Department employees: Art Beyer, Assistant Refuge Manager, Pea Island Refuge; Rebekah Martin, Project Leader, Alligator River Refuge Complex; Rebecca Harrison, Supervisory Wildlife Biologist, Alligator River Refuge Complex; and Scott Lanier, Deputy Complex Manager, Alligator River Refuge.”

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