By Dan Ashe, Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
The past few years have been a time of immense change for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as we have begun to transform our organization to meet the enormous conservation challenges of the 21st century.
We are proud of our heritage – more than 150 years of “Conserving the Nature of America,” led by visionaries such as “Ding” Darling and Rachel Carson, and driven by the work of thousands of past and present conservation professionals.
But we have to be more efficient and effective to sustain and expand our successes in the face of increasing habitat fragmentation and degradation, a changing climate and other growing global conservation challenges. That’s why we’ve put so much effort into developing our surrogate species approach to strategic habitat conservation and into implementing Conserving the Future for the Refuge System.
I know our new Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, will help us achieve our conservation mission despite obstacles in front of us.
She will surely carry on the great legacy of former Secretary Ken Salazar. Secretary Salazar was, and is, a friend not only to me but to the entire Service. He was at our side in Madison in July 2011 when we set our course for the Refuge System. Under his leadership, we established 10 national wildlife refuges. He energized President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative and spearheaded the National Blueways System.
History will regard him as a conservation hero, and he leaves an outstanding legacy to Secretary Jewell.
Importantly, Secretary Jewell recognizes the work of public servants and understands the vital role of public service in our nation’s life. I was happy and proud that in her first town hall with Interior folks she talked about the importance of diversity and noted the strides the Service has made.
To echo Secretary Jewell, we must ensure that public lands and their stories are relevant “to all Americans, not just a subset of Americans, and it begins right here and doing the job here at Interior and setting the right example.”
The Secretary began her career as a petroleum engineer. She later worked in exploration and production and moved on to the world of commercial banking, serving as an energy and natural resources expert. She then shifted her focus again, leading outdoor retailer REI.
She understands the importance of the connection between Americans and our natural resources – and the need to balance energy development with strong wildlife and habitat protection. I’m looking forward to her ideas for managing energy development on refuges and public lands while reconnecting Americans with their natural heritage.
And Secretary Jewell is an avid sportswoman with a love for the outdoors. I was at Nationals Park watching a baseball game recently and the beer man actually echoed one of Secretary Jewell’s most important ideas. He told me: “If you can’t have fun at work, go home!” Too often, we become wrapped up in process and lose sight of the joy of conservation and the outdoors. The Secretary has challenged us to have fun at work. She knows that we work on important issues but understands the need to avoid taking ourselves too seriously.
I am excited to work with Secretary Jewell and know she will bring a great, fresh and fun perspective to the Interior Department and conservation in America.
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