As our members and partners know, in July I announced my intention to leave NWRA after 11 years to pursue new opportunities, and today I stepped down in conjunction with the organization’s fall board meeting to make way for my worthy successor, friend and colleague, David Houghton.
As I’ve reflected on my tenure at the NWRA, I can say without equivocation that it’s been quite a ride since I leaped off the cliff in the spring of 2001 to join a few committed board members and volunteer regional representatives to relaunch a struggling organization. Despite all the bumps in the road inherent in getting what was essentially a ‘start up’ off the ground, the results speak for themselves. Thanks to the persistent work of a talented and dedicated staff and committed board members; the wonderful support from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and refuge Friends; and the generosity of our contributors who have stood by our mission throughout, NWRA is today a respected and influential conservation organization that is making a tremendous difference for conservation.
Over the years, we have trained thousands of refuge Friends to be effective advocates for the Refuge System; made it possible for additional thousands of volunteers to monitor and control invasive species on hundreds of thousands of refuge acres; mounted successful campaigns to thwart harmful activities like the road through Izembek NWR wilderness and oil drilling in the Arctic NWR; provided leadership for the Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement that, along with Friends, has been responsible for $1 billion in Refuge System funding over this time; built a remarkably successful large landscape conservation effort through our Beyond the Boundaries program that is helping to add thousands of acres to the conservation estate; and played a vital role in shaping a new and compelling vision for the National Wildlife Refuge System.
There is no question in my mind that the Refuge System is considerably better off today than it would otherwise be without the help of the NWRA working hand-in-hand with the FWS, Friends, partners and all our supporters. A look back shows an organization that has grown and adapted with the changes in the political and funding landscape and accomplished great things along the way. It is a tribute to the staff, board and volunteers that have invested so much time, energy and passion, and I’m proud to have been a part.
But perhaps most important to me are the warm friendships I’ve made with people whom I may never have met if not for the NWRA, and the incredible experiences I’ve had while visiting refuges across the nation. For these I am truly grateful!
In the months ahead, I will assist David and the NWRA as needed in advancing a new vision, while also pursuing my new venture, Wild Eyed Creative, LLC, a consultancy focused on implementing creative public engagement strategies in support of public lands, and improving messaging, marketing and communications in the conservation arena.
A toast to the next exciting phase of the NWRA, and please stay in touch! Starting today, I can be reached at:
Upward and Onward!
P.S. Please don’t forget to support the NWRA with an end of year contribution and/or Combined Federal Campaign donation!