The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its local staff serve as stewards for eight refuges in southeast Louisiana — a sprawling complex that is composed of more than 150,000 acres from north of Bogalusa to south of Buras.
Of that group of people, the project leader largely is in charge of the local crew and helps oversee the day-to-day operations of some of the finest property in the state.
After 12 years with the agency, it’s now Stacy Armitage’s turn to run the Southeast Louisiana Refuges Complex.
Armitage, 39, began as project manager of the local refuges in mid-March. This is the Colorado native’s third stop with the Fish and Wildlife Service and her first as a project leader. She previously worked at Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge and spent the past few years at the service’s regional office in Atlanta.
Needless to say, Armitage is thrilled with the chance to be project manager at a refuge system as diverse as that seen in southeast Louisiana.
“I’m really excited to be back outside and closer to the refuge,” she said. “I know there’s a diversity of habitat here. We’re really engaging the public here. It’s an awesome connection with nature, but there are challenges here too.”
Chief among the agency’s local challenges is the fact that the refuge system is so sprawling.
“We go from urban to rural, so you’ll have different goals,” Armitage said. “Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge (in New Orleans) is so urban, it has different needs and demands than, say, a rural refuge like Bogue Chitto (National Wildlife Refuge in eastern St. Tammany Parish.) When people come to a more isolated place like Bogue Chitto, they tend to be a bit more connected with nature.”
For Armitage and company, that means reaching out to a diverse public seeking different things from their refuges.
“Public engagement is really important,” she said. “We have to let people know who we are and what we do.
She said there’s fishing, hiking, wildlife observation and more available at the refuges.
“People can come to us for that. But I’d also like to see us go into the community. I think that’s important for the community,” Armitage said. “We want them to know who we are, so we can bring nature to them. Not everyone is familiar with who we are.”
Right now, Armitage is working with her staff and refuge volunteers to bring that vision to the local system.
“I’ve been given the big Southern welcome,” she said. “It’s just been fabulous. I’m still getting used to the refuges. There are so many habitats and so many different communities. We’re working on a Breton (Island National Wildlife Refuge) restoration project and adding sand so we can grow it. There are some big rebuild projects at Big Branch (Marsh National Wildlife Refuge). And Bayou Sauvage is such a unique place. It’s the second-largest urban refuge in the United States. It just has huge potential.
“The possibilities here are endless. Because we’re such a broad, sweeping complex, there’s a lot of acreage to cover. But all those possibilities, they make me excited.”
For information on the Southeast Louisiana Wildlife Refuges complex, call (985) 882-2000 or visit www.fws.gov/southeastlouisiana.