U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE IS ONE TO BE PROUD OF
November 8, 2009
Sam D. Hamilton,
the new director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) spoke last
week to the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. The
group included USFWS representatives from each of the states as well as
those from state wildlife agencies of the Southeast and outside the region.
The focus of his talk and a theme of the conference was North American
mission is "working with others to conserve, protect and enhance
fish, wildlife, and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit
of the American people." The fish and wildlife in the mission statement
do not refer simply to game species such as deer and ducks or bass and
trout. All animals living in the wild, including butterflies, clams, and
wood rats qualify as wildlife. And the USFWS is concerned with all of
the way Director Hamilton acknowledged the problems facing future conservation
initiatives, which is the first step in dealing with any challenge. He
mentioned many hurdles ahead for those who wish to develop a strong conservation
program for the nation. Included were the increasing water shortages in
many regions, fragmentation of natural habitats, and "accelerating
climate change that is exacerbating all other existing threats."
He noted one problem that I believe is a particularly serious one: much
of today's society is "disconnected from the natural world"
and therefore apathetic toward the problems that need to be addressed
to develop long-lasting conservation programs.
he was upbeat about the prospects for success in developing a national
conservation attitude that will benefit us all. He was very positive about
the fresh approach of the new secretary of the interior Ken Salazar. As
Hamilton said, Salazar "understands and appreciates what [the USFWS
does] for the country and is calling upon us to think big, be creative,
and act decisively." Having up-the-line support for any national
initiative is critical to its success, and it appears that such support
of President Obama's priority for a "new, comprehensive energy plan
for our nation" and of developing "alternative energy sources,
including solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass energy." The role
of the USFWS will be to support renewable energy programs wherever possible.
Hamilton stressed the importance of working in partnership with state
wildlife departments and private industry to minimize impacts on natural
habitats and wildlife. Balancing the push for new technology against the
critical need to properly manage the nation's wildlife and natural ecosystems
will be a challenge in itself.
of how the USFWS will contribute to the development of alternative energy
sources is an advisory committee that offers advice and recommendations
about the ecological impacts of land-based wind turbines. Significantly,
nongame wildlife species as well as game species are being considered
as part of the nation's fish and wildlife resources.
funding initiative mentioned by the director is related to the American
Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The USFWS will receive $280 million
in stimulus money. In particular, funding will be allocated to "undertake
183 construction projects across the Southeast focused on habitat restoration,
energy efficiency, and facility improvements at national wildlife refuges,
fish hatcheries, and on other lands." Such projects will not only
create jobs but also give the workers a direct connection to the process
of preserving and protecting our wildlife and natural resources.
is one of the most worthwhile and effective agencies in the federal government.
The 150 million acres that comprise the National Wildlife Refuge System
with its 550 refuges qualify the USFWS as a critical player in U.S. conservation
efforts. As Hamilton put it, the national wildlife refuges are "the
most magnificent and diverse collection of lands and waters in the world,
held in trust for the American public and dedicated to the conservation
and management of fish, wildlife, and plants." How refreshing to
see an emerging government policy that recognizes that our nation can
encourage technological development, including a search for alternative
energy sources, while simultaneously endorsing--indeed demanding--the
preservation of our natural heritage.
you have an environmental question or comment, email