New project leader at Delaware Bay refuges

Meet Al Rizzo, the new project leader at Prime Hook and Bombay Hook national wildlife refuges. A Delaware native, Al is a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service who brings a wealth of knowledge about landscape restoration to his new position.  Learn more about Al, his experience, and his goals for managing the Delaware Bay refuges in this blog interview.

Al_Rizzo

Al Rizzo is the new project leader at Prime Hook and Bombay Hook national wildlife refuges in Delaware.

Q: What is your professional background and previous experience with the Service?

A: I began my career as a mine reclamation specialist in the surface coal mining industry in West Virginia. My duties involved developing detailed materials and handling plans to prevent acid mine drainage. I also developed habitat restoration plans that included a variety of terrestrial habitats. After a reduction in the workforce, I started my own professional consulting firm that specialized in wetland delineations, wetland mitigation, storm water management and wastewater disposal.

To pursue my passion for habitat restoration, I accepted a position with the Service at the Chesapeake Bay Field office.  The position entailed working to conserve wetlands in partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency. My duties included restoring wetlands that were destroyed by illegal filling activities. The position ultimately transitioned into the Partners for Fish and Wildlife state coordinator for Delaware and Maryland. In that role, I’ve worked closely with state and federal partners to fund and design private land conservation projects that help Service trust resources. I’ve also had the chance to participate in the Pocomoke River restoration initiative, a partnership working to conserve and restore migratory bird and neotropical migrant habitat in the Pocomoke River Watershed. It’s been an honor the last 20 years to work in partnership with other agencies and stakeholders to reach our goals together.

Q: What are your goals as the new project leader at the Coastal Delaware National Wildlife Refuge Complex?

A: In the short term, the major focus will be completing the comprehensive conservation plan, or CCP, for Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge and to begin implementation of the CCP at Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge, while working closely with the community and other stakeholders. Under the Prime Hook conservation plan, we’ll work to develop suitable habitat for wildlife and increase wildlife-related recreational opportunities, amongst many other management goals.

Q: What can people expect regarding implementation of the comprehensive conservation plan for Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge?

Learn more about marsh restoration at Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge

A: Under the CCP, we will begin the marsh restoration process. We expect to complete an engineering study and hydrological modeling for the project later this year, and we’ll continue to work with the Army Corps of Engineers and the state to locate material for the project. Restoring the marsh probably won’t completely eliminate flooding, however it will create an environment that is more resilient to strong coastal storms.

Q: In your last position, you lead the private lands program and worked closely with the refuge. How are you planning to use some of those relationships to promote conservation at the refuge complex? 

A: I‘ll maintain a close relationship with our private lands program. Having done a lot of restoration on agricultural lands, I want to continue to work with the agricultural community to build sustainable refuge resources and opportunities. In the context of the larger surrounding landscape, Bombay Hook and Prime Hook national wildlife refuges have the ability to support a vast  array of wildlife. I’m looking to extend our focus beyond the borders of the refuges to make sure we are working toward our conservation mission with our partners to have better, more sustainable refuges for everyone.

I hope to do the Service proud serving in my new position. I’m a native son of Delaware and I’m excited to work with our dedicated staff to continue to conserve our lands and wildlife. Ultimately, I’m here to listen and work with our partners at every level to achieve our conservation goals.

Al will begin working as the project leader for Bombay Hook and Prime Hook national wildlife refuges on June 3, 2013, managing 14 full-time staff. He can be reached at Al_Rizzo@fws.gov or at 302-653-9345 once he begins.

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