Meet the new leader of the Gulf of Maine Coastal Program!

Meet Jed Wright, the new project leader for the Gulf of Maine Coastal Program in Falmouth, Maine. Jed has worked with the Service for over 10 years. Learn more in this blog interview about him, his experience and goals for managing the program.

Photo courtesy of Jed.

Photo courtesy of Jed.

What is your professional background and experience with the Service?

Before joining the Service in 1994, I completed various graduate degrees and worked in Washington, D.C. and Southern Africa. Somehow I kept on ending up in countries that were in the midst of civil wars. I went to Bates College and always thought that Maine was a very special place–when a chance arose to move back to the state, I took it.

I began working for the Service in a position that was shared between Fisheries and Ecological Services programs and focused on habitat mapping for Atlantic salmon. Over the years, my work evolved to a broader focus on habitat assessment, protection and restoration projects. I really enjoy working with a diverse set of partners and I’ve worked hard to build capacity within agencies and conservation groups.

I’ve enjoyed working with Service staff throughout the region and nationally and always learned so much from other’s experiences.

What are your goals as the new project leader?

I’m really excited about my new role and the great opportunities ahead for the Gulf of Maine Coastal Program. The Coastal Program has a unique role and I look forward to building stronger linkages with other Service programs. I also look forward to reaching out to the next generation of conservation leaders by increasing internships, details, and fellowships that we offer.

There is a strong movement in Maine focused on restoring aquatic connectivity and I see our office continuing to play a large role in that arena.

Habitat protection and restoration efforts will play a role in the future at conserving not just present-day trust resources, but also in the ability of coastal ecosystems to respond to change and support coastal resources of the future and advance long-term conservation of critical habitat and species. I think it will be important for us to develop tools to assess how our habitat protection, restoration and management actions are contributing to resilience of coastal ecosystems in Maine.

Many of our local conservation partners don’t have access to facilities like the National Conservation Training Center and I’d like to see our office increase its focus on developing and hosting technical workshops.

Can you share a story about one of your greatest accomplishments at work so far? What you’ll bring from that experience to your new leadership role?

Managing the Atlantic Salmon Conservation Fund, a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation program, was a dynamic and rewarding experience. With a small amount of initial funding and a great deal of work from partners, I helped to permanently protect thousand of acres of riparian habitat, strengthen local conservation organizations, and develop innovative restoration approaches.

I see the lasting impact of the investments that we were able to make throughout Maine, especially in the area of aquatic connectivity. We recently completed a project in the Sandy River watershed in partnership with a small town. The town manager and road commissioner ended up committing their entire annual road budget to fix a serious fish passage problem. They spoke eloquently about their desire to be good stewards to the environment and their hope to restore fish passage throughout their watershed.

It’s clear that if you connect to people on an individual basis and look for shared values all sorts of great things are possible.

Check out this time lapse: Helping a town repair its road and improve fish habitat! A culvert on a busy town road in Phillips, Maine, was failing. The site was a priority for restoring Atlantic salmon and brook trout habitat. The folks at Jed’s office partnered with other organizations to secure enough funding, complete surveys and design and construct the new crossing, which was finished this month. The town is very happy with the results, and we hope that this project will serve as a model for additional municipal projects across Maine! Video credit: credit Alex Abbott (GOMCP)

Anything else you want to share with the community?

My interest in rivers and things aquatic stemmed from a childhood playing in our backyard stream. Many afternoons were spent racing sticks down through the currents or searching for fish. There were a few less benign activities including building numerous dams and once I and a cousin caused an avulsion that cut off a meander bend. My mom was not pleased with our radical change to the landscape.

I feel very lucky to have this job, to work with such a great group of colleagues and partners, and to be able to make amends up for all the impacts I caused to that small backyard stream.

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