September 14, 2011

Dan Ashe

Dan Ashe, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Photo courtesy of Tami Heilemann/DOI.

Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Location: Potomac, Md.

How did you become passionate about the outdoors?

I love to do anything outdoors, from scuba diving to hunting or fishing. My grandfather was a hunter, and my brothers and I would go out with him every winter. All those memories, from the howling beagles to the rabbits we hunted, have become interwoven with who I am.

What led you to a career in conservation?

My dad worked for the Fish and Wildlife Service, and we would follow him around, moving throughout the South. Part of my desire to get involved in conservation was that I wanted to be like my father a bit. I’ve always really liked science, and growing up I wanted to be a marine biologist. I studied biology in college and, after graduating, received a National Sea Grant Congressional Fellowship that allowed me to move to Washington, D.C., and gain experience on Capitol Hill.

What were some valuable lessons you learned on the Hill?

I got to meet lots of people in the conservation community. On Capitol Hill you learn how to make lasting relationships with people because one day you are working with a person and the next day you are working against them. My time there taught me to unite people even when there are many different perspectives and places from which people are approaching an issue. What’s more, I learned that conservation policy is not always about science. There is almost always a political dimension to an issue.

What do you think are the most important conservation issues facing sportsmen today?

Climate change is a huge issue, not only now but into the future. Biologists, sportsmen and outdoor recreationists experience the effects of our changing climate in everything from insect infestations to changing snowpack to variable soil moisture to atypical stream and river runoff. Climate change is one of the most consequential things for people living in our time to come to grips with, and we need to work to understand it better.

The global population and the population of the United States are skyrocketing. This is creating an increase in resource consumption. There are more people using more resources, leaving less space for our fish and wildlife resources. We need to figure out ways to take care of these resources and manage them responsibly.

What are some things you hope to accomplish during your time as director of the Fish and Wildlife Service?

I am excited about building new alliances around issues we are faced with. I hope to unite people around a set of shared objectives. The last time the conservation community all united like that was back in the ’60s, and substantial progress was made. I want to see something like that in this time period.

One Response to “Dan Ashe”

  1. MrLincoln

    The last time I saw Dan Ashe he was holding a rifle with a big smile on his face. Yeah, that’s the look of someone who’s mission is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.

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August 14, 2011

Vaughn T. Collins

Vaughn Collins and his hunting dog, Luna. Photo courtesy of Laura Fall.

Title: TRCP Director of Government Affairs

Location: Washington, D.C.

Q: Talk about your work at Ducks Unlimited. Why are partnerships between sportsmen’s groups like Ducks Unlimited and the TRCP important?

I was with Ducks Unlimited for five years as director of public policy, where I lobbied for wetlands conservation in Congress and worked with federal agencies and conservation groups to promote federal programs in fish and wildlife issues. The TRCP was always a valued partner when I was with DU. The sporting partnerships and coalitions that TRCP builds in the hunting and fishing community are critical in promoting a variety of conservation and access issues.

Q: What led you to your career in conservation?

I have always been an outdoorsman, sportsman and conservationist. My education was focused on resource issues and economics, so a career in conservation policy was a natural choice. The turning point of my career was when I moved to Washington, D.C., and took a position at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and thereby had the opportunity to focus on national rural development and conservation issues.

One of my duties while at USDA was to manage the Truman Internship Program. The Truman Scholarship is memory of President Truman and is awarded to more than 50 of the best and brightest college seniors from across America. USDA was responsible for supervising the internships of eight to 10 Truman scholars each year. It was an honor and a pleasure to work with these future leaders.

One of the highlights of my career in conservation was working as the chief of the Federal Duck Stamp Office at the Department of the Interior. In that role I headed one of the most successful conservation programs in the federal government. Each year the Duck Stamp program raises more than $25 million – 90 percent of which goes directly toward the acquisition of critical habitat for the National Wildlife Refuge System. Anyone who hunts waterfowl needs to purchase a federal duck stamp as it helps maintain the strong conservation tradition of hunters in America.

Q: What do you miss about living in Vermont?

I don’t miss the D.C. traffic for one, but mostly the natural beauty and living in a rural town where most people know each other. My wife and I have a small house on a hill in the Champlain Valley that is surrounded by 1,200 acres of land protected by conservation easements. We overlooking Lake Champlain and have views of the Adirondack Mountains in New York and Vermont’s Green Mountains. The view is beautiful beyond belief.

Q: What do you love about your job?

I love working for a small organization. It gives me the ability to interact with senior-level staff both on Capitol Hill and in the administration. The transition to TRCP was made easy because of my tenure in the D.C. office of Ducks Unlimited. I especially enjoy building and maintaining relationships with members of Congress and other policy makers for the benefit of conservation. This is the type of job where you can really make a difference.

Q: Why did you choose to work for the TRCP?

As an avid outdoorsman who enjoys hunting and fishing, I really wanted to stay within the sporting community. Because of the strong partnership Ducks Unlimited has with the TRCP, this position as director of government affairs seemed like a great fit for both me and TRCP. It has proven to be a great choice, and the transition has been smooth because the work is very similar to what I did while at Ducks Unlimited.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish for the TRCP?

I hope to strengthen TRCP’s ability to work with partners in the sporting community and beyond and leverage these relationships and coalitions to keep conservation policy a priority in Washington, D.C. I want to use my position at TRCP to help ensure that quality fish and wildlife habitat remains for future generations of sportsmen to enjoy.

Q: Tell us about your dog, Luna. How hard was it to train her to be a hunting dog?

My wife and I got Luna from a highly respected kennel in Virginia, and I trained her myself. She is a titled American Kennel Club hunt dog, and is a great family pet as well.  She’s named Luna (Spanish for moon) because she was born on a blue moon in November 2001. Luna is the second chocolate Lab that I have had the pleasure of owning.

Training Luna was a real joy, because she was bred to hunt and is a very smart dog. I trained her using only voice commands and positive reinforcement, and based my training on  “How to Be Your Dog’s Best Friend: A Training Manual for Dog Owners,” written by The Monks of New Skete. I also used “Water Dog,” written by Richard Wolters.

May 14, 2011

Robin Knox

Robin Knox with a redfish. Photo courtesy of Robin Knox.

Name:  Robin Knox

Title: Coordinator, Western Native Trout Initiative

Location: Evergreen, Colorado

As coordinator of the Western Native Trout Initiative, Robin Knox gets to play with fish for a living — not bad for a guy who grew up 10 minutes outside of downtown Chicago! Learn more about Robin and the WNTI.

Q: What is your fondest hunting or angling memory?

This is tough since I have many great ones. Probably the fondest memory I have is back around 1990 or so, I took my parents fishing on a lake in southeast Colorado, and we had the best day I have ever had for white crappie fishing. We caught dozens of crappie that were 14 to 16 inches long, weighed over a pound, and both of my parents were so excited about what a great fishing trip it was. I have a great picture of them holding up a stringer of these crappies, which we later filleted and ate.

Q: What led you to your career in conservation?

I was one of seven children, and in the summer we always spent a week on a lake in northern Wisconsin. We did camping trips to Cape Hatteras National Seashore and other places, and I started to develop a love of the outdoors. I just loved to fish and was always interested in wild creatures and where they lived. After getting a bachelor’s degree in zoology, I learned that I could get a graduate degree in fisheries science and hopefully enter the fisheries management side of science. So that is what I did.

Q: Tell us a little more about the WNTI’s work to conserve native trout populations. Why are these populations important to sportsmen?

Native trout in the West are important for a number of reasons. To Native Americans they are cultural icons, and to many anglers they are a worthy quarry due to their limited distribution, their colorful bodies and hard-fighting nature. To conservationists they are indicator species that highlight the stresses placed on coldwater habitats due to population growth, resource extraction impacts, de-watering and invasive species. WNTI’s mission is to serve as a catalyst for the implementation of management actions that improve the status of the species through partnerships and cooperative efforts that result in improved habitats, better scientific information and improved recreational opportunities for anglers. WNTI works hard at increasing public knowledge and understanding of the role native trout play as we consider the best ways to conserve and improve coldwater aquatic habitats.

Q: What do you think the most important conservation issues facing sportsmen are today?

I think the key conservation issues facing sportsmen today are
a) Having a strong voice at the national level that results in good decisions about how and where energy development takes place. Important examples include supporting legislation like the Clean Water Act, ensuring funding for conservation programs and protecting wild lands.
b) Maintaining access to local lands and waters for hunting and fishing access.
c) Recruiting new anglers and hunters into the conservation community at a young age and keeping them interested in outdoor recreation until it becomes a lifelong pursuit.

Q: Why are hunters and anglers important players in the future of conservation?

For all the reasons just described above, and the fact that old farts like myself are not going to be around forever.

Q: What do you love about your job?

My job has allowed me to be a visible presence at a lot of venues where I can spread the word about native trout conservation. It allows me to stay involved at both a national as well as local level in fishery management issues that have been my life for the past 40 years. I get to interact with like-minded folks who are dedicated to protecting and improving wildlife and fisheries resources for future generations – including my grandsons. A huge plus is that I can usually figure out a way to get some angling accomplished in new and exciting places across the western United States – including Alaska every once in a while.

April 14, 2011

Steve Kline

Name: Steve Kline
Title: TRCP Center for Agricultural Lands Director
Location: Washington, D.C., and Centreville, Maryland

Who got you interested in the outdoors?

Luckily, I had a father and grandfather who loved to be outdoors. In the fall and winter we spent time together hunting waterfowl and deer, and when the weather got warmer we got our fishing gear out and went after everything from stripers to smallmouth bass.

What is your most memorable experience afield?

What I love about hunting and angling is that these activities afford opportunities to spend time with people you enjoy – sharing a bond that only those who hunt and fish know. Some of my greatest memories afield are of conversations had and stories told; the duck blind truly brings out the philosopher in every hunter. In a world that always seems to be in a rush, the very nature of hunting and fishing requires that you slow down. Far more than filling a tag, it is this sense of camaraderie that I cherish most about being a sportsman.

Is this why you chose to work in the conservation and sportsmen community?

I chose to work in the conservation and sportsmen community because of my affinity both for policy-making and hunting and fishing. What better way to combine my passion for being outdoors with my love of politics than to work in the sportsmen’s conservation community? It is the best of both worlds. I am fortunate that I get paid to protect the fish and wildlife habitat that millions rely on for a quality outdoor experience, including myself!

In your opinion, what are the most important issues facing agricultural lands today?

Where I live, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, agriculture is trying to hang on in the midst of an onslaught of urban sprawl. Once we lose agricultural lands to housing developments or highways, it is gone forever and any debate about how best to use those lands for habitat and a cleaner environment is moot. Naturally I believe that ensuring the future viability of our farmers and farmlands should be a national priority. Conservation should play an important role in achieving that goal.

Why is conservation so important to you?

Conservation is important to me because I think that our national quality of life is contingent upon a clean and healthy place to call home. Outdoor recreation is essential to refreshing the American psyche, whether you choose to hike or hunt. Without conservation we stand to lose fish and wildlife and the habitat on which they depend. What’s more, we stand to lose the link to the very planet that sustains us. I believe strongly that we can find a better way forward, one that ensures future generations will be able to hunt, fish and enjoy the great outdoors.

Why did you choose to work for the TRCP?

I have always respected the work of the TRCP. The sportsmen’s community has been divided up about a million different ways between the species they hunt and fish or the type of gear they prefer. But regardless of what you hunt or how you hunt it, the need for quality fish and wildlife habitat does not diminish. TRCP unites sportsmen and -women of all stripes in a powerful voice of support for conservation.

What do you hope to accomplish for the TRCP?

In my work with the TRCP, I hope to be a persuasive and creative voice on behalf of hunters and anglers for farmland habitat conservation and the protection of critical wetlands across the country. I hope to grow the Partnership’s work on my home waters, the Chesapeake Bay, where hunters and anglers have largely been silent on some of the most pressing issues. I hope to rekindle some old friendships, create a few new ones, and have a little fun in the process!

March 14, 2011

Randy Bimson

Title: Senior Technical Advisor
Organization: Beretta USA Corporation
Location: Accokeek, Maryland

Q: When did you first start hunting and fishing, and what’s your favorite memory afield?
I grew up in Saskatchewan, Canada, where there is some of the best big game and bird hunting in the world. On one of my first trips afield, my dad took me out duck hunting at a local prairie pothole. It was a dark, cold morning, and my dad and I settled into the blind against the driving rain and howling wind. Next thing I remember is waking up hours later to daylight – I had curled up in my dad’s lap and fallen fast asleep. Dad never fired a shot that day. Instead he enjoyed the sunrise over the prairie, the mallards and canvasbacks coming and going out of the slough in front of us, and being there with me.

More recently, I spent four days hunting with my two grown sons outside College Station, Texas. We drove out together, hunted boars and spent cherished time together. It was the first time in years that the three of us were able to coordinate our schedules to get together on the same hunt. The bonus was harvesting a few boars and bringing home some fantastic meat.

Q: What led you to become involved in conservation?
When I was 15 years old I obtained certification as a hunter safety/outdoor education instructor and joined the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation as a volunteer instructor. The course included substantial aspects of wildlife and conservation. Under the guidance of the SWF and my future father-in-law, I became involved in many conservation projects.

During this period I was introduced to the manager of a project to assist the Department of Natural Resources in maintaining a sustainable pheasant population in the area. Thus began my ongoing involvement in conservation, water and land use issues that has continued throughout my professional career in the firearms industry.

Q: How did Beretta become involved in conservation work?
Founded in 1526, Beretta is the oldest family-owned industrial firearms dynasty in the world. The Beretta group and family have been associated with conservation projects and efforts for many years on a worldwide basis. From the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust in Kenya to supporting the work of national, regional and local associations here in the USA, Beretta believes that conservation needs to be a national priority. Over the years we’ve supported groups like the TRCP, Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, National Wild Turkey Federation, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Coastal Conservation Association, Quail Unlimited and Ruffed Grouse Society.

Q: Describe your vision for Beretta.
Quite simply, the Beretta family and the management and staff of Beretta want to insure the ongoing heritage of field sports for generations to come. If our sons and daughters – and their children – participate in outdoor recreation, whether hiking or hunting, they will attach a value to those experiences. These experiences will be echoed in their collective voice to maintain our sporting resources in a sustainable manner. It is an investment in the well-being of our future generations and the world as whole.

Beretta is acutely aware that wildlife and fisheries conservation, public access to these resources and the shooting sports industry are indivisibly intertwined. Without wildlife and access to the lands and waters where we hunt, the shooting sports industry would be greatly diminished.
As capable organizations like the TRCP, Ducks Unlimited and Coastal Conservation Association have taken up the fight at the front lines, Beretta has moved to a supporting role. We are working to further the conservation goals and objectives of organizations such as yours by actively sharing expertise, industry insight and cooperative marketing efforts.

Q: What do you think are the most important conservation issues facing the country today?
Funding for wildlife and habitat at federal, state and municipal levels as well as funding to allow conservation organizations to continue their missions should be top priority. We must ensure conservation programs survive budget and funding cuts – an increasingly challenging task in today’s political and economic climate.

We have a great cadre of conservation organizations that cover each specific interest and facet of conservation. In most cases there is significant overlap between the groups. It is imperative that these organizations collaborate to move the conservation community forward and ensure that sportsmen have a voice. This is where Beretta sees the value of the TRCP. The TRCP provides a common voice for disparate groups, allowing them to work smarter to achieve common goals.

Q: What are your hopes for the future of fish and wildlife conservation, and how can hunters and anglers accomplish these goals?
I want future generations to have the opportunity to enjoy the thrill and awe of the outdoor adventures that I’ve had. I’ve had the joy of sharing a wide variety of experience with my children – not just hunting and fishing, but wilderness canoeing, cross country skiing, winter camping and so much more. If more Americans can share these experiences with their children it means our resources will be in good hands.

“The conservation of natural resources is the fundamental problem. Unless we solve that problem it will avail us little to solve all others.”
-Theodore Roosevelt, address to the Deep Waterway Convention, Memphis, Tenn., Oct. 4, 1907

HOW YOU CAN HELP

WHAT WILL FEWER HUNTERS MEAN FOR CONSERVATION?

The precipitous drop in hunter participation should be a call to action for all sportsmen and women, because it will have a significant ripple effect on key conservation funding models.

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