Southwest Region
Conserving the Nature of America
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Regional Director's Corner

Dr Benjamin Tuggle
The ability to look beyond our own jobs and our own programs and make a broader contribution. In essence, it means modeling our behavior to function as
“One Service
One Region”
About Our Leadership

Current Student Opportunities in Region 2

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) employs many students in various career and educational fields. The Student employment program Pathways is a way to attract talented students to work with the Service and it's an opportunity for students to continue their education and apply their academic studies to on-the-job experience. Visit our Youth and Student Opportunity page for more information.

Highlight Series
In the coming months, the Southwest Region will highlight each of its programs as a means to introduce the extraordinary activities that the Region's staff bring to the diverse habitats, species and conservation efforts within its boundaries. The next in the series is Migratory Birds.

Read Highlight Series Archives


The Past is the Marrow of Tomorrow
Black History Month is cause for reflection and optimism
Benjamin N. Tuggle, Ph.D.

February 2016
February marks Black History Month. As this month draws to a close, I am reflective in the autumn of my career and thoughtful of what this event means personally and professionally to me, and what I hope it may mean to you.

I offer to you that the past is not prelude. The past is the marrow of tomorrow. Tomorrow will be a collection of all of the days that have come before us. As we work and live out our days we must do so in a manner that is the very best for the future. And above all, I am an optimist. I have faith. We have vanquished the notion that color or creed or circumstances of birth can keep someone from becoming a full participant in American society. I do not dwell on the past. But we must remember the context of our experiences; we must know history—our own histories.

I am humbled by the sacrifices of those African Americans who came before me and as an African American, I have a responsibility to live my life to fullest extent. To do otherwise is a disservice to their sacrifices.

My experience and education have given me knowledge, and as Frederick Douglass said, “Knowledge is the pathway from slavery to freedom.” In addition to knowledge, I continue to have faith in the future. I believe that even though perhaps it hasn’t always been that way for all Americans, we all can have a full portion of the dream—that American Dream.

Read Dr. Tuggle's Complete Perspective in the Open Spaces Blog


Government executive article

In an Era of Cuts, the Path Forward for Conservation Is ‘Emphasis Areas’

In the Government Executive Promising Practices forum, Dr. Benjamin Tuggle, Regional Director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southwest Region, discusses the region's innovative ideas for maintaining conservation efforts in an era of tighter budgets.

"The Southwest Region will concentrate conservation on geographies where it can most effectively achieve the greatest return on investment of limited resources. Our people have the know-how and the grit to perform under any circumstances. We own a history of success, and with this approach I expect more to come.

Read all of Dr. Benjamin Tuggle's comments from the article.


 gives WMAT award to Chairman of the White Mountain Apache Tribe

Ronnie Lupe, Chairman of the White Mountain Apache Tribe holds the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Mexican Wolf Partnership Award presented by Southwest Regional Director Dr. Benjamin Tuggle. Photo by USFWS.

WMAT Award Presentation

Ronnie Lupe, Chairman of the White Mountain Apache Tribe accepts the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Mexican Wolf Recovery Program Partnership Award on behalf of the Tribe from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Regional Director Dr. Benjamin Tuggle. The award cited the Tribe's exceptional leadership and commitment as a partner in the Mexican wolf recovery program. “I deeply appreciate the men and women whose efforts and dedication that have made the White Mountain Apache Tribe's Homeland a model of conservation excellence,” said Dr. Tuggle.



Dr Tuggle interviews with the Texas farm Bureau
Dr. Benjamin Tuggle sits down for an interview with the Texas Farm Bureau Radio Network. Photo credit: Lesli Gray, USFWS.

Texas Farm Bureau Radio Network Interviews Dr. Tuggle, Regional Director, Southwest Region USFWS

The Southwest Regional Director Benjamin Tuggle attended the Texas Farm Bureau Board of Director’s meeting in Waco, Texas. Afterward he had an opportunity to sit down with Gary Jonier, from the Texas Farm Bureau Radio Network, for an interview focusing on the vital role that Texas farmers, ranchers and private landowners play in the conservation of wildlife and important landscapes across the state.  Dr. Tuggle’s interview aired in two segments on the Texas Wildlife Radio Show. Below are links to Dr. Tuggle’s interviews:

Listen to the USFWS Easing Fears of Landowners Podcast

Listen to the USFWS Technical Assistance Available for Landowners Podcast


Earth Day Event at Legacy Park

Omar Bocanegra, USFWS, talking with families
Omar Bocanegra, USFWS, talking with families. Photo credit: USFWS.

A celebration of Earth Day was hosted by River Legacy Living Science Center in Arlington, Texas and many organizations were invited to participate, including the U.S Fish & Wildlife Service’s Arlington Ecological Services Field Office. The family focused event was attended by more than 400 people ranging from small children to grandparents. Omar Bocanegra and Stephanie Zuñiga, a volunteer with the Service, represented the Arlington Field Office.

Omar and Stephanie had the opportunity to speak with many kids and their parents about endangered species. Omar spoke about what it means to be an USFWS Education Table endangered species. He also highlighted some examples on how to help protect them. One of the big hits, especially with the parents, were the many endangered species artifacts that the Service had on display including fur boots made from the endangered Ocelot found in Texas, a women’s clutch made from seal fur, mounted owls, an elephant tusk weighting 35 pounds and a sea turtle that can be found along the Texas Coast. The artifacts not only peaked interest, but also raised awareness of endangered species items that are sold illegally and the negative impacts on the animals used to make them.

One of the stars of the show was the office mascot “Ghost”, a Omar Bocanegra, USFWS, talking with families King Snake. After answering a few questions, the kids received a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service sticker badge and were dubbed Junior Rangers for the day!

In addition to learning about animals and the environment, the guests were invited to story time and other fun activities such as face painting, Nature Hikes, and Outdoor Camping Demonstrations throughout the Science Center. Along with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Arlington Ecological Services Field Office organizations in attendance included the Turtle Survival Alliance, Fort Worth and Dallas Sierra Clubs, Marylee with the Master Composters, Cross Timber Master Naturalists, Boy Scout troop 545, Native Plants Society of Texas, and General Motors with a “Green Car” Display. Through the combined efforts of these organizations, the day was full of education and awareness of current conservation issues.


Texas State students interview a San Marcos employee.
Leah Murray being interviewed by the Texas State University student newspaper while discussing the ecology of Texas wild rice in the San Marcos River. Photo credit: Jeffrey Hutchison, USFWS.

Annual Texas Wild Rice Festival

The second annual Texas wild rice festival was held in City Park, San Marcos along the banks of the San Marcos River. Texas wild rice is a federally listed endangered aquatic plant that is endemic to the San Marcos River and occurs nowhere else in the world. Along with Texas wild rice, the San Marcos River and Springs are critical habitat for four other federally endangered and threatened species such as the fountain darter, Texas blind salamander, San Marcos salamander, and the Comal Springs riffle beetle. Created to bring more awareness to Texas wild rice and the importance of protecting the river, the festival began as the brainchild of two students from Texas State University in 2014.

Botanists Jeff Hutchinson and Leah Murray were there with a booth representing the USFWS San Marcos Aquatic Resources Center at the event. They set up a 1000 L tank with all the native and non-native aquatic plants found in the San Marcos River in coordination with the City of San Marcos Parks and Recreation Department. Visitors to the festival were allowed to pick up the plants and learn key characteristics. Explanations were provided on why non-native plants pose serious threats to Texas wild rice and other listed species found in the San Marcos River. Jars of preserved fish and salamanders were also on display. Entertainment was provided by several local bands playing music and various talks were given on edible native plants, sustainability, and hydrology of the San Marcos River. At 9:00 PM the festival closed with an interpretive dance by ARTheism and a screening of the documentary film Yakona to a live score of music. The festival was a success with over 3,000 people in attendance.


Photo of Colby Wyatt, Southwest Region Veteran Employee
Colby Wyatt, Administrative Officer at Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge

Honoring Our Veterans

Every year we set aside one day to honor those who have served in the U.S. Military and express our gratitude to the men and women who have made great sacrifices to preserve our freedom. Few have given more to our nation than our military Veterans, both in peace and in war. This is why we observe Veterans’ Day.

We take special pride in those Veterans who work for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The men and women who have served in the armed forces exemplify a commitment to serving this nation. They continue their service to the American people by bringing their skills, knowledge, experiences and dedication to our conservation mission.

I would also like to express my personal appreciation to, and admiration for, our Veterans, and the many other members of our Service family, who continue to serve in the National Guard and Reserves. We owe them a debt of gratitude for all that they have done– and continue to do – to conserve our nation’s treasured natural resources.

Photo of Tiffany Rollins, Southwest Region Veteran employee
Tiffany Rollins, Grants Fiscal Specialist for the Wildlife and Sportfish Restoration Program

To honor our colleagues who have served in the military, we once again have posted photographs of many members of our Region 2 family who are Veterans. I encourage you to take a moment to look at images of military Veterans working for the Service nationwide at our Flickr site.

Veterans’ Day is a time to reflect on the principles of freedom and democracy. We honor and recognize the men and women who have served the United States through their military service. All we can say is a whole-hearted and deeply felt, “Thank you for your service!”

- Benjamin


2014 recovery champions
The 2014 Recovery Champion Awardees, from left to right: Tony Amos, Director of the Animal Rehabilitation Keep (ARK), and Cyndee Watson, Recovery Lead for endangered karst invertebrates, Austin Ecological Services Field Office. Photo credit: USFWS.

Recovery Champion Awards

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (Service) Endangered Species Program recognizes outstanding employees on an annual basis through Recovery Champions Awards. This award highlights the contributions of Service personnel and partner organizations for the recovery of endangered and threatened species. This national recognition is awarded for efforts such as working to prevent species’ extinction, conserving and restoring habitat and resources critical to a species’ survival and recovery, scientific research, and public education and outreach. Nominations were solicited from Ecological Services, Refuges, Fisheries and partner groups, and were based on leadership competencies, length of time working on the issues, scope and significance of efforts, and measurable results.

Last year's Recovery Champion recipients are Cyndee Watson, Recovery Lead for endangered karst invertebrates, Austin Ecological Services Field Office; and Anthony (Tony) Amos, Director of the Animal Rehabilitation Keep (ARK), University of Texas Marine Science Institute (UTMSI) a partner organization.

2014 recovery champions
Tony Amos collect data on species along the Texas coast; and Dr. Benjamin Tuggle, Southwest regional Director, congratulates Cyndee Watson on receiving the 2014 Recovery Champion Award. Photo credit: USFWS.

Cyndee Watson’s work has been invaluable to recovery efforts for 16 karst invertebrate species.   She is instrumental in innovative recovery planning for these species and for the past ten years collaborated with local communities, researchers, and a wide variety of stakeholders to promote its conservation.  Her efforts helped raise awareness of the importance of their habitats and led to the protection of several significant karst preserves.  From hosting meetings and workshops for cave and karst experts, to attending and participating in national conferences, Cyndee lead the way in sharing information and encouraging collaboration among all who are interested in karst conservation. 

The Region’s second recipient, Tony Amos, has been a major contributor as a partner to our knowledge of shorebirds, sea turtles, and manatees and invaluable to recovery efforts for various species. For more than 30 years, he compiled an incredible long-term data set of bird and sea turtle observations for the Central Texas coast.  This data set contains information on species of special interest to the Service, including the federally-listed piping plover, red knot, and five sea turtle species.  These surveys provided key information about winter piping plover natural history necessary to recovery planning efforts of the Service.  Through these surveys numerous Kemp’s ridley sea turtle nests have also been detected and protected, helping to facilitate the recovery of this species as well.  His tireless efforts to rescue and rehabilitate sea turtles and birds, including piping plovers, red knots, brown pelicans, and even bald eagles has made Tony an outstanding spokesman for wildlife conservation in the Texas Coastal Bend region.

Dr. Benjamin Tuggle, the Southwest Regional Director, expressed his appreciation to the recipients, “For all that you have accomplished on behalf of threatened and endangered species, and for the encouraging future ahead, I applaud you and I join the rest of the Service in best wishes for your continuing success.”

Congratulations to the recipients of the Service’s 2014 Recovery Champion Awards!


eagle aviary workshop
Dr. Benjamin Tuggle speaks at the Eagle Aviary Workshop. Photo credit: Joe Early, USFWS.

Native American Eagle Aviary Workshop

In its continued effort to strengthen tribal trust relations, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (Service) Southwest Region Migratory Bird Permit Office held the Region’s first Native American Eagle Aviary Workshop (workshop). The Southwest Regional Office hosted over thirty workshop participants including tribal officials, wildlife managers, biologists and Service personnel. Aviary managers from the Pueblo of Zuni, Pueblo of Jemez, Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma, Comanche Nation of Oklahoma, Citizen Potawatomi Nation of Oklahoma, Navajo Nation and San Carlos Apache Tribe gave updates and presentations on their activities. Group discussions took place regarding statutes and regulations, proposed procedural changes to permitting, placement of live eagles, disaster planning, tribal wildlife grants, and a question and answer session with the Office of Law Enforcement. “Supporting
these eagle aviaries is a labor of love for us in the Southwest,” said Benjamin Tuggle, the Service’s Southwest Regional Director. “The tribes are our neighbors, and honoring their traditions and beliefs is extremely important to us. To me, the aviaries represent an amazing example of a true conservation partnership.”

Learn more...


Gulf Coast Joint Venture: A Bird Habitat Conservation Partnership (Migratory Birds)
Presentation by Barry Wilson, GCJV Coordinator, 2014, Southwest Region All Employee Meeting

Migratory Birds Joint Venture
Habitat conservation important to priority bird species within the joint venture region. Credit: USFWS.

Barry Wilson describes the origin and current role of Migratory Bird Joint Ventures (JVs) nationwide, with an emphasis on the Gulf Coast Joint Venture and a distinction between the Service's JV Program and multi-organizational JV Partnerships. Details of the GCJV partnership are , including the management board composition, JV staffing, administrative funding, and partnership organization. The GCJV's landscape-level approach to bird habitat planning and assessment requires taking a birds-eye view of habitats without regard to administrative boundaries or landownership, but considering the role of individual organizations and land tracts in fulfillment of landscape-scale objectives. Toward that end, the GCJV employs satellite imagery and

Gulf Coast Joint Venture
View the entire presentation.

spatial landcover data, in combination with detailed information from public lands in a Managed Lands Geodatabase. Details of biological planning, conservation design, habitat delivery, outcome-based monitoring, and assumption-based research for shorebirds is provided as an example of GCJV-led Strategic Habitat Conservation (SHC) for birds.

Learn more about the Migratory Bird Program.




Advancing Environmental Education and Youth Employment in the Middle Rio Grande -
The Start of a Beautiful Partnership for Local Youth

Youth involvement in the natural world through both education as well as employment opportunities has long been a priority area for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service). Here in the Southwest Region, our Regional Director Dr. Benjamin Tuggle has always had a passion for creating meaningful conservation experiences for local youth, especially in urban areas where many young people have become increasingly cut off from nature and wild spaces.

Learn more...

Last updated: March 14, 2017