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.
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.
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.
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.
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.