Wendi Webber: US Fish and Wildlife Service marks two decades of Valley partnerships
HADLEY — This month marks 20 years since the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service opened its Northeast regional office in Hadley. We moved our headquarters here in 1993, from the Boston beltway, to join the rich academic and scientific community in the Pioneer Valley.
More than 200 people work at the regional office, making the service one of the largest employers in Hampshire County. I have the privilege of leading the agency’s work in the region, which spans 13 states from Maine to Virginia. From Hadley, we oversee 72 national wildlife refuges and 12 hatcheries; protect fisheries, migratory birds, and threatened and endangered animals and plants; and offer biological and technical expertise to conserve natural resources throughout the region.
Since our move to Hadley, the service has contributed to significant conservation for the public throughout the Northeast, but also right here in our western Massachusetts home. The Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, headquartered in Sunderland, was established in 1997 and named after the late congressman. The refuge protects the Connecticut River watershed, and the service in recent years has acquired land for its Fort River Division in Hadley, Mill River Division in Northampton and Westfield Division in Chesterfield.
The Connecticut River is at the heart of the service’s regional conservation efforts. Last year, the river was designated as the country’s first National Blueway, recognizing its value for healthy waters, travel and tourism, jobs and wildlife conservation. Our staff also works closely with the state of Massachusetts and state, private and nonprofit partners to the north and south, to restore and sustain American shad, river herring, alewife and other migratory fisheries in the Connecticut River.
We have benefitted greatly from our partnerships in western Massachusetts. For example, we collaborated with the University of Massachusetts to establish a master’s degree program specializing in fish passage engineering. Students from this program are going on to fill critical conservation jobs across the country.
I am proud of our recent efforts to make our office more environmentally friendly and reduce our carbon footprint. Our building manager, Amherst Development Partners, has supported our efforts. Recently, 416 large solar panels were installed on the roof of the building to provide about 10 percent of our electricity.
Most of us who work at the Hadley office also make the Valley our home, and some of us are lifelong residents of the area. We raise our children here, serve our towns and volunteer for local causes.
Each spring we host a family fishing day at the pond in front of our office and we manage an art gallery exhibiting the work of local artists who are inspired by wildlife and landscapes. I encourage you, our neighbors, to stop by and visit us during these events.
Thank you, Hadley, for welcoming the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1993, and we look forward to being in the Valley for years to come.
Wendi Weber is the Northeast regional director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Hadley.