In Memory of Jed Wright

Jed

On Friday, October 6, 2017, the conservation community in Maine lost one of its most inspiring leaders in Jed Wright, the project leader of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Gulf of Maine Coastal Program. He leaves a legacy as a public servant whose dedication to conservation forged strong partnerships, conserved thousands of acres of land, and restored hundreds of miles of healthy rivers.

Jed made his way to the Service over two decades ago following graduate studies at SUNY Buffalo and Yale University, and work with the World Bank in Mozambique and Angola. Eventually taking the helm of the Gulf of Maine Coastal Program in 2014, Jed joined the Service in 1994 to assist with a mapping project for Atlantic salmon. Already tuned to conservation in Maine, Jed began the first of many years committed to restoring the country’s last stronghold for wild Atlantic salmon and many other fish species.

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His focus in rivers and aquatic wildlife stemmed from a childhood playing in a backyard stream, racing sticks in the current and spending hours searching for fish. At the Gulf of Maine Coastal Program, Jed and his colleagues championed partnerships improving river and stream health. His efforts bolstered shared successes with Project SHARE, The Nature Conservancy, Penobscot River Restoration Trust and many other partners crafting win-win situations in streams and rivers for communities and fish.

For years, Jed worked with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to build capacity and empower local grassroots salmon conservation organizations in downeast Maine to encourage salmon and river restoration in that region. Through the Atlantic Salmon Conservation Fund, Jed helped to permanently protect thousands of acres of riparian habitat, strengthen local conservation organizations and develop innovative restoration approaches. The fund’s work received national prestige with the 2005 Secretary of the Interior’s Cooperative Conservation Award recognizing outstanding cooperative conservation achievements accomplished with a diverse range of partners.

Jed was instrumental in helping his colleagues complete a multi-agency regulatory agreement in 2017 on building road-stream crossings that will facilitate recovery of Atlantic salmon and restoration of habitat for other native fish species. His expertise in stream simulation design and his leadership skills were key to accomplishing this endangered species consultation–an agreement that exemplifies how together partners can fulfill the needs of transportation, flood hazard reduction and river restoration. When a complicated bank stabilization project crossed his colleagues’ desks, Jed brought in experts from the West Coast to demonstrate how a technique new to Maine could maintain fish habitat in the Sandy River while also meeting the local community’s goals to protect an important town road. Jed also saw this work as critical preparation for the expected environmental changes shaping Maine’s coast, often remarking that current habitat protection and restoration efforts will drive how ecosystems will respond to future changes.

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Jed at the Sandy River project with Brian Bair of the U.S. Forest Service and Dennis Castonquay, director of Farmington public works department.

Kennebec Journal photo by David Leaming.

Every spring, Jed helped children and teachers release salmon fry in Maine rivers as part of the Atlantic salmon Adopt-A-Salmon Program, and he assisted local schools in obtaining salmon eggs and educational materials each year.

While some might see conservation as work focused on wild places and wildlife, Jed knew it all boiled down to people. As project leader, he carried on the office’s focus on voluntary, collaborative partnerships with people who have similar goals—working in respectful partnerships, with flexibility, creativity, and a ‘we-can-do-it-together’ outlook. Countless anecdotes from partners illustrate his endeavors to build relationships and capacity for the greater good, always with his signature attitude of humility and calm. In partnership with Keeping Maine’s Forest, Jed coordinated and facilitated the 10th annual Private Lands Partners Day event in Bangor, Maine. The workshop brought attendees from across the nation to see how economic interests and conservation are balanced in Maine’s multiple-use forested landscape.

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Jed’s energy and determination, his creativity and thirst for new ideas, the daily care and commitment he devoted to our shared goal of ecosystem restoration and to staff and partners through the Gulf of Maine Coastal Program were absolutely amazing to behold, a model for us all, and a truly great loss for our community.

– Alex Abbott, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The loss of Jed leaves a profound void in the conservation family. He had a rare mix of great intelligence, deep compassion, calm patience and energetic passion to persevere in the face of resistance and to push for real and lasting change. He inspired and challenged all who worked with him, and had a sincere interest in developing people. His colleagues noted that they always left a conversation with Jed believing a bit more in themselves, in other people, and in the future.

We are dedicated to living by his example and carrying on his work.
Fish and Wildlife
We invite Jed’s peers, friends and partners to share thoughts and memories below by commenting. Photos and other remembrances can be via email. Donations in memory of Jed can be made at Yellow Tulip Project: https://theyellowtulipproject.org.

This tribute was developed in collaboration with our Maine Ecological Services staff.

15 thoughts on “In Memory of Jed Wright

  1. Steve Agius

    It was an honor to have worked with Jed. His smile was contagious, his personality was captivating and his dedication to detail inspired all of us.

    Reply
  2. Lauren Bennett

    It is still hard for me to believe that Jed is gone. Some mornings, I half expect to see him walk by my office with his bike helmet in hand, asking how everything is going. He was the kind of person with whom you felt an instant connection, as well as an immediate and strong sense of security – as if you knew he was always looking out for you and always had your back. Even though I wasn’t his employee, he made me feel so welcome at the Gulf of Maine Coastal Program office and I loved working here under him. He was so skillful when it came to providing emotional support to others; it saddens me deeply to think of the weight he was carrying around internally. In my darker moments I feel like I failed him where he never failed me. Thanks Meagan for pulling together such a wonderful post and for involving the staff here in its development. I love how many photos are included – they brought a huge smile to my face. I hope that others will share their memories of Jed and also send in photos that will help us all to smile again.

    Reply
  3. Josh Royte

    Jed was one of the most forward thinking, affirmative, and supportive partners we’ve had here at TNC in Maine working on land protect and an amazing amount of coordination, problem solving, innovation and implementation for river restoration. He worked tirelessly on projects all around the state (sometimes all around the clock!) to make this a better place, and clearly – from reading his life BEFORE Maine – he’s made the world beyond a better place. I know there are also people who feel deeply sad in a dozen other states and probably as many countries. Since many of us worked together with and through Jed, I find each new meeting with a partner from USFWS, NOAA, TU, ASF, SHARE, NRCS, you name it – just seeing faces of people that are also sad and touched by this, it takes a moment of acknowledgment and thanks before we can get anything else done these days. And so it is, 5-6 times a day, I touch a project or data, or have a question he can no longer answer, I think of Jed, and while I’m torn up at what can happen to someone so dear, all the what if I/we/someone had done something different, I know Jed was dealing with much thornier struggles than our federal government, invasive plants or fish, or management headaches, struggles he has now moved beyond. I’m incredibly thankful for all the time I got with Jed and I hope we all can all do a better job talking much more openly about issues of health beyond the colds, aches, and diseases below the neck and pay more attention to what’s happening up stairs. All my sympathies and strength to the family and all the other dear friends suffering from this loss.

    Reply
  4. Christina trufant

    When I was fresh out of college Jed gave me a job and found contracts for continuing jobs for me when jobs were scarce. Some of the jobs were thing I had no experience with but he was truly confident in me and never once waivered in his confidence. He took the time to teach me new skills and give me a ton of new experiences. The thing he taught me that has and will stick with me is kindness. In a world where every man is for out for himself he showed me that taking the time to help someone else is truly an amazing, valuable gift and any chance I get to help someone get ahead in this field I do and I think of Jed. He gave me an amazing refrence for a job that has got me to where I am today and I will forever be thankful for that and for the confidence he gave me. He was an truly kind man with a big gentle heart and I am very sad to see that he is gone. Thoughts go out to his family.

    Reply
  5. Tuda Libby Crews

    I felt an immediate connection to Jed after an engaging conversation by the bridge on one of the first stops on the PLPD excursion. He was interesting and knowledgeable about Maine. I was touched when Jed offered his arm to help me hike up the hill to the tour bus. His passing has left an immeasurable wake of sadness. I send my deepest condolences to his family, friends and colleagues.

    Reply
  6. John Reilly

    I never met this Gentleman, but his love for Nature and Wildlife is a priority as to keeping our environment safe. Prayers and thoughts are with the family & friends.

    Reply
  7. Mao Teng Lin

    Jed will always be one of my favorite human beings. We worked together, yes, but we also travelled together, shared meals, ran trails, laughed out loud, barbecued, tore out dams (for fun AND conservation), and talked about everything under the sun. I miss his bright, quirky, sparky personality. Somehow, he once convinced me to run a 200 mile relay race with him. I’ll send along that picture if I can find it.

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  8. Tara Wertz

    Jed – you were a voice of reason in the midst of discord, a thoughtful comment or question when chaos reigned, a shining light when the path was dark, and a quiet calm amidst the growing storm. The world is less because of your absence, even as the world is better because you were here. I pray we all take the time to approach life and it’s choices with your vision and optimism.

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  9. Gregory Mackey

    Excellent job on this tribute to Jed. Well done. I worked with Jed on Atlantic salmon conservation for close to 9 years. We collaborated closely on several projects. Jed was always the nicest person, earnest and very intelligent. I always greatly valued my discussions with him, and the creativity and energy with which he approached his work. Jed made a huge contribution professionally, and I am sure he did the same in his personal life. He will be sadly missed.

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  10. Cheryl Boisvert

    My heart breaks just thinking how I will never see his smile walk by my door again. Jed had such a great vision for GOMP and we were all so excited to be a part of it. I will miss you always.

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  11. Serena Doose

    Jed inspired everyone he met to be the best versions of themselves. He believed in everyone far beyond their own levels of confidence and I am forever a better person for having known him as both a friend and mentor. Every long car ride was accompanied by donuts or a Trader Joe’s kringle as well as deep and inspired conversations. Every morning he’d walk past your office and ask you how your weekend was, remembering to inquire about even the smallest details that you may have previously mentioned. Jed could find the good in every person he’d ever met and strove so hard to create the vision he could see for the world. Though his absence in our lives feels like such a deep and massive loss, he will always be an inspiration to me and I will cherish each and every memory.

    Reply
  12. Elizabeth Hertz

    I had the honor to work with Jed for close to two decades. The memory that is utmost in my mind is of his warm, kind smile coupled with a slightly irreverent twinkle in his eyes. Others have recounted more beautifully than I can all that Jed did in his professional life; he truly made a difference and our world is a better place because of him. To honor this special soul, I suggest we all educate ourselves on mental illness; work to reduce the stigma associated with it; and learn new ways to ask ‘ how are you?’ instead of using the phrase as a throw-away conversation opener.
    My thoughts and prayers go out to Jed’s family as they navigate their enormous loss.

    Reply
  13. Heather Johnson

    It has been such a blessing to have Jed as a friend. What a kind and wonderful man!! He accomplished so many amazing things in his life and his legacy will live on forever. It is still hard for me to believe we won’t see him again. I will miss him very much, as I know we all will! It was wonderful that a lot of us got to spend a wonderful week with him in Maine, at Private Lands Partners Day. I will never forget those fond memories! What we do know is that he is smiling down upon us now and will always be with us in our hearts. God bless you Jed, and rest in peace. We love you dear friend!!! Blessings to Jed’s family — My thoughts and prayers are with you, as I now the grief you must be going through is huge!

    Reply
  14. Nancy Pau

    I had the honor of getting to know Jed a decade ago when we served on the SHC team together. Being his travel companion then and a few other times over the years, I quickly came to admire his deep caring for his fellow human beings and his love and devotion to his wife and kids. Conversations with Jed were always enlightening and warm. He was intelligent, thoughtful, curious, and he was not afraid to tackle difficult issues, but did it with such humility and concern for others.
    It saddens me that someone who gave so much of himself and was there for so many people was struggling internally. Jed embodied so many of the traits I strive for in myself. I still struggle with making sense of Jed’s death. Thanks to all those that shared your memories of Jed here and at the Service. It’s a great reminder to remember Jed as he had lived. My heart-felt condolences to his family and close friends.

    Reply

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