Outdoors
When Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge Manager Greg Siekaniec last worked in Washington, D.C., eight years ago, a Democratic Party president was in power and he worked in the office of the chief of refuges, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Wildlife manager leaves AK for DC 010709 OUTDOORS 1 Morris News Service, Alaska When Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge Manager Greg Siekaniec last worked in Washington, D.C., eight years ago, a Democratic Party president was in power and he worked in the office of the chief of refuges, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Greg Siekaniec

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Story last updated at 1/7/2009 - 10:52 am

Wildlife manager leaves AK for DC

When Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge Manager Greg Siekaniec last worked in Washington, D.C., eight years ago, a Democratic Party president was in power and he worked in the office of the chief of refuges, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Next week, Siekaniec returns to D.C., again to serve under a Democratic Party president and in the office of the chief of refuges.

As Yogi Berra said, "This is like déjà vu all over again" - with one difference. Eight years ago, Siekaniec was deputy chief of the Refuge System. Now, he goes to the other side of the desk to become chief of refuges - officially, Assistant Director for the Refuge System. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director H. Dale Hall appointed Siekaniec to his new post this month.

"It made it easy for me," he said of becoming chief of refuges. "I knew what this position held. I knew the work."

Siekaniec, 52, moved to Homer with his wife and two children on Dec. 1, 2000 to become refuge manager of Alaska's most far-flung and remote refuge. He started work at Alaska Maritime NWR right as the refuge, Kachemak Bay Research Reserve and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration were sorting out how the three organizations would work together in a proposed new building.

One of his first memories was of a design meeting for what would become the Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center.

"It was all new stuff," Siekaniec said. "How do you bring three organizations together?"

Helping to steer that organization and the design of Islands and Ocean was one of his achievements as refuge manager. Siekaniec also is credited with developing partnerships with national conservation organizations to restore island habitat and eliminate invasive species - particularly rats and foxes - from valuable seabird colonies.

The refuge's habitat restoration work has involved public-private partnerships, and shown how refuges can contribute to local economies, not only for tourism and wildlife recreation, but for businesses like shipping companies. Recognition of that value hasn't gone unnoticed by the administration-to-be of President-elect Barack Obama.

"It's kind of fun to have people asking, 'What kind of stuff do you have ready to go?'" Siekaniec said.

A 24-year veteran of the refuge system, Siekaniec started his career as a refuge clerk at J. Clark Salyer NWR, N.D. He has a bachelor of science in wildlife biology from the University of Montana, Missoula. He moved up into management positions in Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming.

This year he finished the Senior Executive Service Candidate Development Program and the Senior Executive Fellows Program at John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.

In his new position, Siekaniec will be a senior adviser on refuges to the Fish and Wildlife Service director. He'll deal with all political and policy development issues.

His decades-long background in refuge management will serve him well in his new job - and is part of why he was appointed.

"Pretty soon you start to get pretty well rounded in the refuge system," Siekaniec said.

Siekaniec's Alaska experience will serve him well in Washington, he said. Although Gov. Sarah Palin's vice presidential candidacy brought Alaska to the world's attention, Siekaniec said Washington has always noticed Alaska.

"There's always been keen interest in Alaska because Congress decided to treat Alaska differently from the Lower 48," he said.

In other states, refuges often were formed after centuries of development. Creation of refuges and other federal land reserves has been part of Alaska's development.

"A lot of the other places came after the fact," Siekaniec said. "(Congress) took a whole different approach to Alaska That's part of the fun of working in Alaska. We're brand new."

He and his family came to Homer to raise their children in a rural environment, Siekaniec said. They've enjoyed the opportunity to live a partly-subsistence lifestyle.

"One thing I'll miss about Alaska is the true connection to the land from the subsistence standpoint," he said, something hard to do in Washington. "You don't hop in a boat and cruise upriver and dipnet reds."

Both his children are now in college and have worked summers here in commercial fishing.

"Odds are we'll be coming back for our kids. This is home to them," he said.

Siekaniec said he'll miss a lot about Homer - especially the office view. Alaska Maritime NWR has the best view hands-down of any of the refuges, he said.

"It's a bittersweet thing always when you leave a community that's been friendly and fun to work in," he said. "It's hard to leave all that. The good side is, I'll know their issues inside and out I certainly will take a lot of Alaska with me when I go."

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.

will serve him well in Washington, he said. Although Gov. Sarah Palin's vice presidential candidacy brought Alaska to the world's attention, Siekaniec said Washington has always noticed Alaska.

"There's always been keen interest in Alaska because Congress decided to treat Alaska differently from the Lower 48," he said.

In other states, refuges often were formed after centuries of development. Creation of refuges and other federal land reserves has been part of Alaska's development.

"A lot of the other places came after the fact," Siekaniec said. "(Congress) took a whole different approach to Alaska That's part of the fun of working in Alaska. We're brand new."

He and his family came to Homer to raise their children in a rural environment, Siekaniec said. They've enjoyed the opportunity to live a partly-subsistence lifestyle.

"One thing I'll miss about Alaska is the true connection to the land from the subsistence standpoint," he said, something hard to do in Washington. "You don't hop in a boat and cruise upriver and dipnet reds."

Both his children are now in college and have worked summers here in commercial fishing.

"Odds are we'll be coming back for our kids. This is home to them," he said.

Siekaniec said he'll miss a lot about Homer - especially the office view. Alaska Maritime NWR has the best view hands-down of any of the refuges, he said.

"It's a bittersweet thing always when you leave a community that's been friendly and fun to work in," he said. "It's hard to leave all that. The good side is, I'll know their issues inside and out I certainly will take a lot of Alaska with me when I go."

Michael Armstrong is a staff writer for the Homer News. He may be reached at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.


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