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USFWS honors Devil’s Hole pupfish team

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The nine-person, inter-agency Devil’s Hole pupfish team was honored as 2013 Recovery Champions by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Pacific Southwest region for their work on helping revive the highly endangered fish.

The fish and wildlife service recognized 11 individuals and five teams for their exceptional efforts to conserve and protect the nation’s rarest fish, wildlife and plants.

“We all owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to these dedicated conservationists who are on the front lines fighting the battle against extinction,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. “Their spirit and determination is the application of Aldo Leopold’s counsel to ‘keep every cog and wheel,’ and they provide hope for all of us that our children and the generations that follow will be able to enjoy the same tremendous diversity of plants and animals that we do today.”

The inter-agency partners-in-mission team working on the Devil’s Hole pupfish is being recognized for their leadership, teamwork and innovation in helping to conserve the Devil’s Hole pupfish. The team includes:​ ​ Death Valley National Park employees Kevin Wilson, Daniel Gaines and Jeffery Goldstein;​ ​Nevada Department of Wildlife employees Kevin Guadalupe and Brandon Senger; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees Javier Linares, Lee Simons, Darrick Weissenfluh and Olin Feuerbacher.

The team was formed after the April 2013 Devil’s Hole pupfish count determined the population had declined to an estimated 35 fish, the fewest ever counted. The team utilized new and creative methods to successfully hatch and rear Devil’s Hole pupfish in captivity as well as improve conditions in Devil’s Hole, which helped reverse an alarming population decline and thwart a serious risk of extinction to this iconic species. As a result of their collective efforts, there are currently 30 captive Devil’s Hole pupfish being raised at the specially designed Ash Meadows Fish Conservation Facility and the population at Devil’s Hole rebounded to 92 fish during the spring 2014 count.

Service employee Jesse Bennett from the Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office was selected for his leadership and commitment to improve the status of the endangered Southern California Distinct Population Segment of the mountain yellow-legged frog. The fish and wildlife service said his efforts to secure more than $300,000 in funding, in combination with more than $2 million in support from partner agencies have resulted in habitat improvements, amelioration of threats to the species, and greater knowledge of the species’ biology and ecology. His proactive approach and dedication has been instrumental to the success of many ongoing collaborative projects. As a result of his tireless work to recover the species through research and on-the-ground actions to reduce threats, frogs are being re-established and efforts are underway to identify additional translocation sites.

“This award honors those that go above and beyond in endangered species conservation,” said Ren Lohoefener, regional director of the Pacific Southwest Region. “The work that these champions do every day to protect wildlife is inspiring. The efforts of Jesse and the entire Devil’s Hole pupfish team exemplify their commitment and dedication.”

The Recovery Champion awards began in 2002 as a one-time recognition for service staff members for their achievements in conserving listed species. However, in 2007, the program was expanded to honor service partners as well, recognizing their essential role in the recovery of threatened and endangered species.

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