Realtree Interviews USFWS Director Dan Ashe

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Dan Ashe was confirmed as the 16th director of the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service in June of 2011. This year he attended his first-ever SHOT Show, where he took a few minutes to meet with us to talk conservation, hunting and fishing policy, old shotguns and favorite duck recipes.

Originally from Georgia, Dan Ashe previously worked as the USFWS Deputy Director for policy. He’s no stranger to the Beltway, having moved to Washington in 1982, where he studied Marine Affairs. Ashe’s father also worked for the USFWS.

In his spare time, Ashe likes to duck hunt and play tennis.

Here are some of the topics we discussed with the director:

  • On Landscape Level Conservation Waterfowl and many other animals require not only choice parcels of select habitat, but also big landscapes – like the prairie region of the United States – to reproduce and thrive. These big spaces and the plants and animals that live within them are affected by local and global factors alike. To achieve its mission in the 21st Century, the USFWS is directing much of its focus on conserving habitat on a larger scale. They call this plan Strategic Habitat Conservation, or SHC.
  • Duck hunting Ashe is a waterfowler, and spends a good deal of time hunting Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Duck hunting is his favorite (he enjoys wood ducks in particular), but he does a fair amount of goose hunting as well.
  • More Hunting Access Ashe says the roots of the USFWS are in the hunting and fishing communities. He, along with most of us in the outdoor industry, liked what he saw in the last National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, which reported a 9 percent increase in hunter numbers and an 11 percent increase in angler numbers. But loss of access to hunting areas remains a major concern. One potential way to open more public land access is through full funding of the United States' Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), a federal program established in 1964 that provides funds and matching grants to federal, state and local governments for acquisition of land and water. Currently, funding is running at about $200-300 million instead of the needed $900 million. The major source of income for this program is in fees that are paid the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement by companies that drill offshore for oil and gas.
  • National Wildlife Refuges There are approximately 150 million acres of National Wildlife Refuge, and almost all of it is open to public use, often including hunting and fishing.
  • The Sportsmen’s Act Ashe was disappointed when the Senate did not pass The Sportsmen’s Act. Fully backed by conservation groups and hunters everywhere, the Act met a bump in the road with a funding problem since it proposed raising revenue by increasing the cost of a duck stamp. That caused two problems: raising revenue violated the Budget Control Act of 2011 and the bill violated the Constitution because measures that generate revenue must originate in the House. Ashe believes that Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana) will reintroduce the bill this year and that Congress will work together to pass this important piece of legislation.
  • Favorite Shotgun Ashe sometimes uses a 16-gauge Ithaca pump, but day in and out, his favorite duck gun is a side-by-side Savage / Stevens 12-gauge. Despite a variety of premium, high-dollar loads on the market, Ashe sticks to standard steel pellets.
  • The USFWS Online The USFWS averages 47 million visitors a year. Although the website offers a range of topics and the latest news, the USFWS does little in the way of social media activity. That’s a communication shortcoming in today’s world. Ashe realizes this, and hopes to improve the situation soon, especially since he knows that the younger generation looks to social media for much of its news and information.
  • The Director’s Duck Recipe

Makes about 4 servings.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 6-8 minutes
1-2 tablespoon McCormick Caribbean Jerk Seasoning
1 tablespoon brown sugar or honey
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon Onion Powder
4-6 duck breast halves
 1.  Slice each breast fillet, length-wise, into 1-inch strips.
 2.  In a mixing bowl, combine seasoning and other ingredients.
 3.  Combine marinade and breast strips into ziplock bag.
 4.  Place ziplock into refrigerator; marinate 2-6 hours.
 5.  Grill over medium-high heat 3 to 4 minutes per side or until duck is cooked to rare to medium-rare, depending on your taste.

  • The Future The USFWS offers summer employment to youth at its 556 national wildlife refuges. Ashe believes this opportunity is a wonderful way for America’s next generation to get involved with the outdoors. During FY2012 the FWS hired 3,573 youth (ages 15 – 25) either directly or through partnerships with nonprofit organizations. Youth interested in the upcoming summer’s employment opportunities should check the USFWS website for announcements. We urged Ashe to consider public service announcements that tell the country what we, as hunters, do to support conservation through our tax dollars in the Pittman Robertson Funding.