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.