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

 
 
Dr Benjamin Tuggle
Southwest Regional Director, Amy Leuders
 
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
and
One Region”
 
About the Regional Director
 
About the Deputy Regional Director
 

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 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 current student positions.

Highlight Series Archives
The Southwest Region highlighted each of its programs as a means to introduce the extraordinary activities that the Region's staff brings to the diverse habitats, species and conservation efforts within its boundaries. Here you'll find the archived information of those highlights:
  • Refuges

  • Science

  • RDT
    Oversight
  • WSFR

  • Law
    Enforcement
  • Ecological
    Services
  • Fisheries

National Wildlife Refuges of the Southwest Region
Brief History | Chronology | Famous Visitors to the Refuges | Southwest Region Reference List of Refuge Websites and Facebook Pages | Locate a Southwest Region Refuge

There is no clear documentation of just when the concept of protecting wildlife through habitat preservation was born, but as long ago as the mid-1800's, diaries of early western explorers, pictorial records and reports from journalists and speakers familiar with the West brought a public realization that the unrestricted slaughter of wildlife for food, fashion and commerce was systematically destroying an irreplaceable national heritage.

From the earliest years national wildlife refuges have played a major role in the evolution of resource conservation in the United States. The National Wildlife Refuge System now comprises more than 566 refuges in all 50 states, American Samoa, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the Johnson Atoll, Midway Atoll and other Pacific Islands. Refuges now encompass approximately 100 million acres of valuable lands and 750 million acres of oceans in the United States. Included in this total are nearly 1.9 million acres of wetlands in the prairie pothole region of the north-central United States. These wetlands are known as "waterfowl production areas."

Southwest Region 3 of the Oldest Refuges
Wichita Mountains 1901   Salt Plains 1930   Muleshoe 1935
Wichita Mountains   Salt Plains   Deer at Muleshoe

The history of the Refuge System is the history of farsighted actions, untiring efforts, and generous donations from untold numbers of dedicated individuals from both government and private sectors. These individuals have recognized that our wildlife resources are an invaluable national heritage. It is a good time to reflect upon the collective efforts of these dedicated people in creating what is regarded as the largest and most outstanding wildlife conservation program in the world -- the National Wildlife Refuge System.

Southwest Region 3 of the Newest Refuges
Caddo Lake 2000 Rio Mora 2012 Valle de Oro 2012
Caddo lake Rio Mora Valle de Oro
Neches NWR was estblished in 2006
Famous Visitors to the Region's Refuges
Read Tidbits of Information About the Famous Visitors to Our Refuges
Famous visitors montage

Science Leads Our Way in the Southwest Region
Strategic Habitat Conservation | Landscape Conservation Cooperatives | Climate Change | Surrogate Species | Our Stories

LCC Slideshow
View 'What an LCC Does' Slideshow
The conservation challenges we face today are daunting. Changes in land-use and other ecological stressors, along with a changing climate, threaten people, native species and habitats. We know from the science that climate change is significantly altering habitats in ways that are affecting the ability of wildlife species to survive. 

Science Applications plays an important role in helping the Fish and Wildlife Service and its partners identify research necessary to create adaptive management strategies that ensure sustainability of the fish, wildlife and plants that occupy these affected landscapes.  Wildlife serves as the first indicators of what is happening on the landscape that will ultimately affect people, too. We are committed to the conservation of our natural world; to bringing people together to leverage our collective scientific knowledge and resources to achieve together what none of us can do independently.

Landscape Conservation Cooperatives -
Desert LCC | Great Plains LCC | Gulf Coast Prairie LCC

Fisheries and Aquatic Conservation (FAC)

Fish release
Fish release. Photo credit: USFWS.

There are roughly 100 people in the Southwest Region's FAC including permanents, terms, and temps. Our budget in allocated dollars is approximately $11,000,000 - $12,000,000. This supports 12 Field Stations including 4 - Fish & Wildlife Conservation Offices, 2 - Restoration & Recovery Centers, and 6 - National Fish Hatcheries.

Fisheries does extensive work with Tribes, hands on work with Threatened and Endangered fish and other native aquatic species recovery efforts; conducts significant native fish monitoring; extensive aquatic habitat restoration; extensive aquatic invasive species prevention and control; numerous outreach events including fishing derbies; and we work to hire a diverse group of young people and expose them to natural resource conservation.

Our stations are known for on-the-ground delivery of our agency's mission with a strong scientific foundation and great partnerships. Some of Fisheries's highlights of

Silvery minnow
Silvery minnow. Photo credit: USFWS.

recovery and native fish work include Apache trout, Gila trout rescue, alligator gar, alligator snapping turtle, razorback sucker, Rio Grande silvery minnow, and Texas wild rice.

Typically, Fisheries recieves broad support from our constituents, especially the Tribes we work with. Our sport fish management with Tribes provides an important economic boost to numerous rural communities.

Migratory Birds
Golden eagle release
Golden eagle release. Photo credit: Les Stukenberg.

The Migratory Bird Program employs 20 personnel in both the regional office and two joint ventures. They managed a budget of approximately $4.471 million dollars in FY 2013 that supported their staff, joint ventures and field stations, special emphasis activities, and bird conservation.

Migratory Birds supports two FWS Joint Ventures - Gulf Coast and Sonoran, and 3 contract Joint Ventures (Oaks and Prairies, Rio Grande, Playa Lakes). The Migratory bird joint ventures are cooperative, regional partnerships of agencies, organizations, corporations, individuals and others that collaborate to conserve landscapes in their geographic areas that support bird populations at objective levels, sustain livelihoods, and connect people and nature.

The program is involved in approximately 13 special emphasis projects that include International Migratory Bird Day, May Breeding Waterfowl and Habitat Survey, August Waterfowl Banding, Central and Pacific Flyway Wingbee(s), and Bird Population Monitoring and Research that also incorporates the North American Breeding Bird Survey, Nightjar survey coordination, Grassland Bird surveys at Sevilleta NWR, Movements and Survival of Golden Eagles via Satellite Telemetry, Movements, Survival, Habitat Use of Reddish Egrets via Satellite Telemetry, Movements, Stopover Sites, and Wintering Areas of Red Knots via geolocators.

sandhill crane at moonrise
Sandhill crane at moonrise. Photo credit: Jerry Goffe.

Migratory Birds is responsible for the nongame bird program and permitting. The nongame bird program has as one of its primary charges to determine the population status of all non-hunted species of migratory birds and identify those species requiring conservation attention in order to maintain sustainable populations and avoid listing under the Endangered Species Act.

Permitting issues permits that allow us to monitor activities to determine how they affect protected wildlife populations. Wildlife conservation laws and treaties prohibit certain activities with protected species, such as take from the wild. Exceptions are usually allowed for limited purposes.

They've impacted the community by investigating the impacts of bioaccumulation of toxins on Breeding Interior Snowy; they are currently conducting research on the impacts of wind energy development on the Golden Eagles and Redhead Ducks; and have obtained funding through the Webless Migratory Game Bird Program to conduct research and management projects on RMP Sandhill Cranes, LCRV Sandhill Cranes, Interior Band-tailed Pigeons.

Through careful management built on solid science and diverse partnerships, the Migratory Bird Program sustains the epic sweep of bird migration and the natural systems on which it depends — fostering a world in which bird populations continue to fulfill their ecological roles while lifting the human spirit and enriching human lives in infinite ways, for generations to come.

Law Enforcement

Special Agent badge
Special Agent badge. Photo credit: USFWS.

Wildlife law enforcement efforts are coordinated with State game and fish agencies and with Federal counterparts; new partnerships include increased liaison with the U.S. Marshals Service in the Southwest. Special agents and wildlife inspectors in the Region provide law enforcement support to 47 National Wildlife Refuges, 27 National Parks, 20 National Forests, over 30 million square miles of other Federal and State land areas, over 100 distinct Native American tribal areas, and 24 Customs ports of entry.

The Southwest Region Law enforcement Offfice employs 58 personnel and operates a yearly budget of $8.5 million dollars.

Nineteen field stations work complex, multi-jurisdictional, multi-subject investigations with regard to the criminal exploitation and/or industrial hazards of our natural resources.

ivory pieces
Examples of carved ivory objects include small statuary, netsukes, jewelry, and flatware handles. Photo credit: FWS Forensics Laboratory.

Challenges in the Region range from protecting endangered Mexican wolves to foiling interstate trafficking of wildlife ranging from freshwater fish to big game species. Enforcement work includes promoting compliance under Federal wildlife laws by oil and gas producers and other industries whose activities affect protected birds; inspecting wildlife imports and exports at two designated ports (Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston) and four border crossings (Nogales, Arizona, and Brownsville, El Paso, and Laredo in Texas); and partnering with Service biologists to address issues affecting protected species and their habitat.

 

 

Science Applications

Science Applications plays an important role in helping the Fish and Wildlife Service and its partners identify research necessary to create adaptive management strategies that ensure sustainability of the fish, wildlife and plants that occupy these affected landscapes.

They employ 8 full-time personnel, one contractor, and maintain productive collaboration with many partners. The Service's allocated budget for this program is approximately $3.8M.

Wildlife serves as the first indicators of what is happening on the landscape that will ultimately affect people, too. Because of this, the Science Applications Program leads 3 Landscape Conservation Cooperatives out of the Southwest Region.

Desert LCC | Great Plains LCC | Gulf Coast Prairie LCC
(Click on the Desert, Great Plains, or Gulf Coast Prairie for more information on LCCs.)

LCC map boundaries

National Wildlife Refuge System

Firefighter pauses during a fire management on a refuge
Firefighter surveys the scene at a fire on the refuge. Photo credit: USFWS.

Refuges in the Southwest Region employ over 500 people – from firefighters and law enforcement, to environmental educators and biologists, to heavy equipment operators and administrative staff. With a budget of approximately $70 million dollars, the refuge system protects and restores habitat, provides quality hunting and fishing opportunities, and connects people with their natural heritage in Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona and New Mexico.

Our 47 refuges are some of the most varied and spectacular in the nation, with rugged mountains, coastal prairies, bottomland hardwood forests and high desert. Each refuge is home to a variety of wildlife of all sizes attracting over seven million visitors each year. Of course we couldn’t provide these outdoor experiences without our over 4,500 volunteers who donated over 247,000 hours last year.

Great egret
Great egret. Photo credit: USFWS.

The Inventory and Monitoring program that the refuge’s Division of Biology conducts is one of the best in the nation, providing refuge managers with rigorous science that helps them implement on- the-ground work to provide quality habitat for waterfowl, combat saltwater intrusion along the coast or better understand endangered populations of animals and how to protect and increase them. The region recently completed four Comprehensive Conservation Plans that lay the foundation for how refuges will be managed for the next 25 years.

Cranes fly in Bosque sunset
Cranes fly in Bosque sunset. Photo credit: USFWS.

At the Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge in Albuquerque, New Mexico - the first urban refuge in the Southwest - we are working hard to connect urban youth with nature, some for the first time. This important work is getting started in Houston, Texas as well, as we partner with a variety of groups to enhance their work, and spread the conservation message in the city. And our work in communities across the region provides economic benefits as well. The recently released Banking on Nature report shows that refuges contribute significantly to the communities around them, with every dollar invested on refuges, returning that dollar and more. In fact many communities partner with our refuges to participate in community events and festivals, like the Crane Festival at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuges, that attract visitors not just from these local areas, but from around the country.

 

 

 

The Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program (WSFR) in the Southwest Region

ocelot
Photo credit: USFWS.

The Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program (WSFR) is administered out of the Regional Office by 12 biologists, grant mangers and fiscal staff. In FY 2013, over $100 million dollars in grant funds were awarded to State Game and Fish Agencies in Region 2 for on-the-ground conservation. The Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Acts requires the State to have assent legislation that includes a prohibition against the diversion of license fees paid by hunters for any purpose other than the administration of the State fish and game agency. This requirement has been pivotal in keeping State Game and Fish assets from being used to fund higher priorities by State Legislatures, and ensures a dedicated funding source for the benefit of fish and wildlife populations.

The Wildlife Restoration Act was enacted in 1937 to provide funding to restore wild bird and mammal populations and manage their habitats. This initiative was funded through the taxing of hunting equipment and includes a Hunter Education component. The Wildlife Restoration Act recently celebrated 75 years of conservation successes.

The Sport Fish Restoration Act (SFR) was modeled after the successful Wildlife Restoration Act. SFR was authorized in 1950 to restore and better manage America's declining fishery resources and is funded through the purchases of fishing equipment, motorboat and small engine fuels and import duties. SFR is one of the most successful user pay, user benefit programs providing grant funds to State fish and game agencies for sport fish projects, boating access, coastal wetlands, and aquatic education.

TXPrognhornCapture
Photo credit: TPWD.

The State Wildlife Grants (SWG) Program provides federal grant funds for implementing programs that benefit wildlife and their habitats. The focus of SWG projects is often species in decline, including species not hunted or fished; priority is placed on projects which benefit species of greatest conservation need (SGCN). The SWG Program is appropriated by Congress with each budget. The SWG appropriation includes formula funding for the States and Territories, as well as funding for the Tribal Wildlife Grants and Competitive State Wildlife Grants.

To be eligible for SWG funding, each State wildlife agency developed a Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy (now commonly referred to as State Wildlife Action Plans). These plans identified the SGCN for each state and territory. For more information, a link to each plan is provided below.

WSFR also provides fiscal program administration for the Endangered Species Act and Tribal Wildlife Grants Programs. For more information about the SGCN and priorities identified for states in Region 2, each plan can be accessed electronically:

Arizona: http://www.azgfd.gov/w_c/swap.shtml

New Mexico: http://www.wildlife.state.nm.us/conservation/comp_wildlife_cons_strategy/

Oklahoma: http://www.wildlifedepartment.com/CWCS.htm

Texas: http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/landwater/land/tcap/

Southwest Region Law Enforcement

Special Agent badge
Special Agent badge. Photo credit: USFWS.

Wildlife law enforcement efforts are coordinated with State game and fish agencies and with Federal counterparts; new partnerships include increased liaison with the U.S. Marshals Service in the Southwest. Special agents and wildlife inspectors in the Region provide law enforcement support to 47 National Wildlife Refuges, 27 National Parks, 20 National Forests, over 30 million square miles of other Federal and State land areas, over 100 distinct Native American tribal areas, and 24 Customs ports of entry.

The Southwest Region Law enforcement Offfice employs 58 personnel and operates a yearly budget of $8.5 million dollars.

Nineteen field stations work complex, multi-jurisdictional, multi-subject investigations with regard to the criminal exploitation and/or industrial hazards of our natural resources.

ivory pieces
Examples of carved ivory objects include small statuary, netsukes, jewelry, and flatware handles. Photo credit: FWS Forensics Laboratory.

Challenges in the Region range from protecting endangered Mexican wolves to foiling interstate trafficking of wildlife ranging from freshwater fish to big game species. Enforcement work includes promoting compliance under Federal wildlife laws by oil and gas producers and other industries whose activities affect protected birds; inspecting wildlife imports and exports at two designated ports (Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston) and four border crossings (Nogales, Arizona, and Brownsville, El Paso, and Laredo in Texas); and partnering with Service biologists to address issues affecting protected species and their habitat.

Learn more about the Region's Law Enforcement efforts.

Southwest Region Ecological Services

ecological Services banner

Ecological Services - protecting and recovering imperiled species and the ecosystems upon which they depend.

The Southwest Region’s Ecological Services (ES) operates from 15 Field Offices and sub-offices in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma, as well as the Regional Office located in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Our staff consists of Fish and Wildlife Biologists, technical and administrative support staff, and Public Affairs specialists. Among the many tools ES employs to achieve our goals are numerous laws, including the Endangered Species Act, Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act, National Environmental Policy Act, Clean Water Act, Federal Power Act, Migratory Bird Treaty Act, Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, and Sikes Act.

American burying beetlr
American burying beetle. Photo credit: USFS.

Ecological Services is responsible for the administration of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, which is regarded as one of the most comprehensive wildlife conservation laws in the world. We use the best available science and sound managerial techniques to achieve conservation of Service trust resources, focusing on threatened and endangered species, 150 of which are found in the Southwest Region, through and with others. 

Ecological Services works with others to plan and implement on-the-ground conservation measures for species listed under the Endangered Species Act.  For example, we consult with other federal agencies during the development phase of their projects so that impacts to a listed species can be avoided and the

wetlands project
Wetlands project. Photo credit: USFWS.

status of listed species can be improved through means such as habitat restoration, creation, and enhancement. Similarly, we work with private landowners and members of industry to develop Habitat Conservation Plans that outline on-the-ground conservation measures that can be carried out in conjunction with their development projects to offset impacts to species without impediment to economic growth and development.

In doing this, we integrate our Federal authorities with social, political, and economic realities to ensure sound resource decisions, while recognizing the importance of a partnership approach addressing the needs of Federal, State, Tribal, local, and non-profit stakeholders, as well as private land owners. In addition, education and information dissemination are integral parts of all of our activities.  The Ecological Services division supports a number of specialized and high profile projects, among them, the Mexican Wolf and Whooping Crane recovery programs, both of which are demonstrating successes in working with partners to increase species numbers and manage key habitats.

The Southwest Region is also a leader in use of conservation banks as a tool for conserving listed species, while providing the private sector a means to mitigate their project impacts. In Texas, a number of banks have been established to provide conservation for endangered golden-cheeked warblers and black-capped vireos. These banks provide a means for urban and residential development to proceed while protecting these bird species. We are also permitting conservation banks in eastern Oklahoma for the endangered American burying beetle, providing an expedient way for the oil and gas project proponents to mitigate their impacts on the burying beetle.

Ecological Services has developed a Regional Spill Contingency Plan which addresses our response to oil and hazardous materials spills specific to the Southwest Region, and works to restore habitats and resources injured by releases of hazardous substances using a process called Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration (NRDAR). The goals of NRDAR are to restore the habitats and resources to the condition they would have been had the hazardous substances not been released, and to compensate the public for the loss of their use or enjoyment of natural resources.

removal of invasive species in a wetlands environment.
Restoring a wetlands by removing invasive red and salt cedar (USFWS).

Ecological Service's Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program provides technical and financial assistance for restoration and enhancement of fish and wildlife habitat on private lands, in partnership with other state and federal agencies and non-governmental organizations. The Partners Program also establishes “Outdoor Conservation Classrooms” in many schools as a learning tool to teach students and other members of the public with an emphasis on wetlands and other important ecosystems. These sites provide a great opportunity to help connect children and adults to nature. To successfully educate young people on these resource issues, a "hands on," proactive and interactive Outdoor Classroom provides the ideal structured environment for learning.

Fisheries and Aquatic Conservation

Exchange Employees from Southwest Region Fisheries and Aquatic Conservation
From left to right: Ruan Wen, Gao Yu, Rob Simmonds, Carey Edwards, Cui-hua Wang,
Teresa Lewis. Photo credit: ECSFRI.

The Southwest Region Fisheries and Aquatic conservation employee, Teresa Lewis, particpated in the ongoing Fisheries Technical Exchange 2013. This program allows professionals from the United States and China to exchange knowledge, technical advances, and expertise in aquatic conservation.

At the June 10, 2014  All Employee Meeting, Teresa presented a talk entitled "Postcards from China - Fisheries Technical Exchange 2013".  Highlights of the technical exchange visit were provided as well as a general description of the People's Republic of China - United States Protocol on Cooperation and Exchanges in the Field of Conservation of Nature.  Teresa represented the Southwest Region and the Southwestern Native ARRC on this trip and was accompanied by two Fisheries and Aquatic Conservation staff from the Midwest Region, Carey Edwards from the Iron River NFH and Rob Simmonds from the Carterville FWCO.

graphic
Download the Powerpoint Slideshow. (.PDF, 15Mb)

Enjoy the Slideshow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 
Last updated: August 1, 2018