Tag Archives: Jed Wright

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.
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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.

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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.