From sage grouse to Atlantic salmon: A new conservation leader in Maine!

Meet Anna Harris, the new Ecological Services project leader for our Maine Field Office in East Orland, Maine! Anna has worked with the Service since 2009, and her journey has brought her from D.C. to the Pacific Northwest and now to the rocky coast, rolling mountains and forests of Maine.

Learn more in the below blog interview about Anna, her experience and goals for managing the program.

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What is your professional background and experience with the Service?

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service continues to be a meaningful and enriching career, and I am delighted to be here in Maine.

I started with the Service in 2009 as an economist in the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program. Working on the National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife Associated Recreation, I gained an understanding of the economic importance of hunting, fishing and bird watching to our partners and local communities. I attended the National Wildlife Refuge System Conserving the Future Vision conference in 2011 and discovered that I wanted to make a contribution to this historic effort. Accepting the position as Conserving the Future Vision Coordinator meant spending countless hours leading teams and organizing products to prepare the National Wildlife Refuge System for the next decade. This was an exhilarating and truly gratifying job.

However, after five years in the D.C. area, I was eager to explore the West. When a position with the Service’s external affairs program focused on the Greater Sage Grouse controversy opened, I seized the opportunity to work with elected officials, local communities and the media in the Pacific Northwest. This was the largest ESA determination the Service had ever embarked on, and it was an amazing opportunity to be a part of this effort. Working with ranchers in Idaho, Oregon and Washington, I helped to locate common ground and good stewardship practices for the birds and the ranchers herd.

What are your goals as the new project leader?

As a member of the Maine Fish and Wildlife Complex, I want to help craft the new vision for collaborative conservation in the state. My goal is to reinvigorate our established partnerships, diversify and expand our constituency, and build on the conservation legacy established here in Maine. I am honored to work with and support the talented individuals here in the Maine Field Office, most of whom have spent their entire careers working tirelessly for fish, wildlife and their habitats in Maine. As a strong believer in building partnerships and leveraging resources from multiple organizations, my goal is to leave the state’s natural and cultural resources in a better position for future generations. Access to land for hunting, fishing, bird watching and outdoor recreation is important  to all Maine residents, and I will work to ensure that these outdoor traditions are passed on to future generations.

Can you share a story about one of your greatest accomplishments at work so far?

One of my greatest professional accomplishments was facilitating a meeting with ranchers, tribal elders, NGOs, federal and state partners to talk about the future of the greater sage grouse and how to connect the next generation of conservation stewards to this forgotten landscape. Encouraging dialogue, honoring experience, and providing a space for finding common ground led to new understanding, heightened respect, and shared trust in outcomes proposed by the group. It was affirming to hear those in the room talk about how the sagebrush sea had affected their lives, and what they hoped to do to preserve this fragile ecosystem. Bringing people together was the first step in forming a collaborative team to communicate the needs of all these parties across 11 states and 165 million acres.

What you’ll bring from that experience to your new leadership role?

I have learned to listen carefully, to respect the views of others, and to facilitate productive conversations. I will use this knowledge to help the Maine Fish and Wildlife Service Complex and its partners articulate a common vision for conservation in the state.  I am looking forward to interacting with any individual who seeks to promote, enhance and restore Maine’s natural and cultural resources.

Anything else you want to share?

I heard recently from a local Mainer that even though the state motto is— The Way Life Should Be, his personal motto is The Way Life Is. The conservation landscape in Maine is changing: the playing field has changed, and the stakes have changed. Human demands on the environment combined with environmental stressors have created an urgent need for responsible conservation decisions. I want to ensure that the choices I make will allow The Way Life Is to flourish.

Welcome, Anna!

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