Tag Archives: Moosehorn

Introducing New Refuge Manager Keith Ramos

This past summer, Keith Ramos joined the Northern Maine National Wildlife Refuge Complex as its new Refuge Manager. This Refuge Complex includes Moosehorn, Aroostook, and Sunkhaze Meadows National Wildlife Refuges. To help you get acquainted with him, I asked Keith to answer a few questions about his past and share his hopes for the future of the Refuge Complex. Here is what he had to say…

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How did you become interested in pursuing a career in environmental conservation?
I grew up in Puerto Rico and my parents are not outdoors people, but I remember watching the show “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” in Spanish on the Telemundo TV station. It came on Saturday mornings and I loved seeing the wildlife. Growing up we would visit my family in Connecticut and it was always so exciting to see white-tailed deer and go fishing with my uncle. When I started college, I thought I would become a pediatrician but that changed after my freshman year. I went to visit my parents in Swaziland, Southern Africa for the summer, while my dad was stationed there for the Coca-Cola Company. My dad took us to see Kruger National Park and that’s where I learned, after seeing the park rangers, that people could actually get paid to work with wildlife. I returned to UMass that following semester and found out that they had a Wildlife Conservation degree. I changed career paths right away, much to my dad’s dismay, but I’m very grateful to have made that decision and my dad now knows how much I love it.

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What other types of work have you done with the US Fish and Wildlife Service?
I have been truly blessed throughout my 17 years with the Service. I have been able to work in four different regions and have seen some incredible places. I have spawned Atlantic salmon in freezing raceways to support Connecticut River restoration and have climbed to the top of the canopy at El Yunque rainforest to survey for Puerto Rican parrots. I got to fly over western Alaska surveying for musk oxen.

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There were countless hours spent searching for nesting Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles on the Texas coast.

I have rescued manatees in the Florida springs and tracked ocelots through the south Texas brush.

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I have stood under a flock of thousands of ducks and geese while trying to count their wings to divide them by two (haha), and have worked with some of the most caring and dedicated people in the World. I have the best job in the World!

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How is Northern Maine National Wildlife Refuge Complex different from other refuges you’ve worked on?
This is my first opportunity to work in New England since my college days and I love it. I have spent most of my career working in flat coastal refuges, with the exception of my time in interior Alaska. Northern Maine has some incredible forests and it sure is nice to work in a refuge with some contour to the land that is accessible by roads. The three refuges within this complex have a lot of similarities and at the same time they provide very different challenges. We are protecting habitat for migratory birds, just like in some of my previous refuges, but the forest and management practices are very different. It is a good thing for me that I have an excellent staff with a lot of experience that I can depend on to help me make the right decisions.

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What are your hopes for the future of the Northern Maine National Wildlife Refuge Complex?
My biggest priority as the new manager for this Complex is to guide our staff in the completion of the Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) for the Moosehorn NWR, which has been in the works for several years. There are various exciting projects going on in our three refuges, but the CCP for Moosehorn is the number one priority. We are doing important work with aquatic connectivity projects within and outside our boundaries, which is reopening habitat and providing for fish passage to millions of anadromous fish. These projects have brought together multiple partners, including our local tribe, and are helping us to support the Service’s priorities.

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How do you spend time enjoying the outdoors with your family?
As a family we love spending time outdoors, especially hiking, hunting, fishing and doing wildlife photography. My wife home schools our two older boys and she takes them out on the refuge trails often. Not having grown up doing a lot of outdoor activities with my parents, it has been a top priority for me to make sure that my boys do and that they grow to love the nature around us. My wife grew up in Zambia and did a lot of camping, hunting and fishing with her parents, so I’ve been learning from her as well. There is so much to learn and explore and I want to pass that love on to my children. The only way they will love nature is to be out in it, exploring it, and learning about it. It’s awesome that my job and family life can join together in so many ways.

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Wilderness at Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge in Maine.

Wednesday Wisdom – Margaret “Mardy” Murie

Margaret “Mardy” Murie  has been called the “Grandmother of the conservation movement” thanks to her dedication to American wilderness. She was instrumental in the establishment and expansion of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and was on hand when President Johnson signed the Wilderness Act. She continued to fight for wilderness until her death at age 101 in 2003.

Wilderness at Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge in Maine.

Wilderness at Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge in Maine.

A group of people stand in a parking lot

Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge fire crew warmly welcomed in Alaska after epic journey

Little did a fire crew from Maine know when they were called to a fire in Alaska that their journey would be more like an episode of The Amazing Race than a routine fire mobilization.

 The Type 2 initial attack crew, named MHR#1 for Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge, was pulled together by Prescribed Fire Management Specialist John Meister of the refuge in Baring, Maine.  Besides employees from Moosehorn and Rachel Carson national wildlife refuges, crew members included firefighters from the National Park Service and the State of Maine, as well as “AD’s”; qualified firefighters sponsored by these agencies and hired on an as-needed basis.

A group of people stands out in a parking lot on a sunny day with puffy clouds in a blue sky.

Alaska welcoming party, left to right Tracey McDonell, Mitch Ellis, Holly Gaboriault, Polly Wheeler, Ken Slaughter and Doug Alexander. Credit: Jan Passek/USFWS

 On the afternoon of Friday, July 5th, Meister got word that his crew was one of eight 20-person hand crews from the Northeast expected to be in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania at noon the next day to board a chartered jet to Alaska. For the next two hours Meister and fire dispatcher Mary Elliott from Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, on detail at the Northeastern Interagency Coordination Center (NECC) in Maine, scrambled to find transportation for the crew to Harrisburg.

 Finally they found a bus company out of New Hampshire that would drive throughout the night. The crew boarded the bus at 11:00 p.m. Friday evening and breathed a sigh of relief when they arrived in Harrisburg at 10:45 Saturday morning—about an hour to spare before the jet’s scheduled departure.  

 But luck was about to run out for MHR#1. The jet contractor had misrepresented his aircraft’s capacity.

 According to Lauren Hickey, BLM Logistics Coordinator for the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center, the contractor for the jet “swore they could carry all 8 crews, no problem, but when push came to shove, it turned out that wasn’t true and they could only load 7 of them.  The Fish and Wildlife crew got bumped.”

 Dispatcher Mari Carello-Bigner of the NECC stepped up to book commercial airline tickets for all 20 crew members, who  had to split  into groups on different flights.. “We had people scattered across America for four days,” said Meister, who watched the drama unfold from back home in Maine.

 Moosehorn Refuge’s firefighter Libby Harriman and five others were the first to arrive in Alaska at 1:00 a.m. on Sunday. Her husband, Brandon Harriman, also a firefighter at Moosehorn, arrived with another five at 8:00 that night.

A group of people stand in a parking lot.

We made it! Libby Harriman (holding cup) is all smiles on firm Alaska ground. Behind her is Lynn Wolfe from Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge. Credit: Jan Passek/USFWS

 Four more firefighters embarked a plane to Alaska via Denver and another four were initially stranded in Harrisburg waiting for an available flight. The latter group eventually found one and touched down in Alaska on Monday night. Meanwhile, the other group made it to Denver only to have their flight to Alaska cancelled due to mechanical problems. The airline put them up for the night and they finally reached the Alaska Fire Service in the early morning of July 9th.

 Said Hickey in an email to Doug Alexander, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Alaska Regional Fire Coordinator,“I encountered the last few arriving crew members at the airport last night and they were very professional . . . and represented Fish and Wildlife well.   Even though it was midnight and pouring rain at the time from a cell that had just moved in, they were thrilled they’d finally made it and were looking forward to their assignment.”

 As chance would have it, when all crew members reunited at the fire base in Alaska on Tuesday morning, Alexander was on site with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Alaska Chief of Refuges Mitch Ellis, Deputy Chief Polly Wheeler, and Refuge Supervisors Tracey McDonnell and Holly Gaboriault and Kent Slaughter, Manager of the Alaska Fire Service.

A group of people stands out in a parking lot.

Doug Alexander (center) chats with fellow firefighters. Credit: Jan Passek/USFWS

Alexander and the entourage warmly welcomed the firefighters to Alaska and thanked them for coming to work on the Stuart Creek #2 Fire. 

 “I was not aware these folks had traveled for 36 hours,” said Alexander.  “They looked professional, eager and ready to go.”  Lauren’s note and our opportunity in meeting them are a great credit to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.”

MHR# 1 is working with hot shot firefighters on the southwest side of the 84,000-acre Stuart Creek #2 fire near North Pole, Alaska. They are burning unburned vegetation to keep the fire from spreading and holding the fire line along roads.