By Cameron “Mac” Purvin
For the Sun
My new assignment comes with the challenges of fostering partnerships with the Navy, local community, and especially with Friends of Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge.
Having worked in the conservation field for my entire career, I’ll admit, even I was late in discovering the wonders of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) System.
Created in 1903 by President Theodore Roosevelt, the same man behind the National Park Service, the refuge system was founded “To administer a national network of lands and waters for the conservation, management and, where appropriate, restoration of the fish, wildlife and plant resources and their habitats within the United States for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.”
Since its founding, the refuge system has grown to more than 560 sites, protecting some 280 threatened and endangered species and their habitats across the country.
With at least one wildlife refuge in every state and U.S. territory (and one within an hour’s drive of most major cities), they offer a chance for urbanites and so many others to connect to nature.
I started my Federal career as a Biologist for the National Park Service and was lucky enough to “discover” the NWR System for myself when I took a job as a Wildlife Refuge Specialist at Hopper Mountain NWR Complex in mid-2020 where I served as a member of the California Condor Recovery Program and on habitat restoration projects at Guadalupe Nipomo Dunes and Bitter Creek NWRs.
It was at this job that I really learned about what made the NWR System special. Smaller and with a narrower focus on species recovery than many of its larger Park counterparts, the NWR System cultivates a sense of community, not only among staff, but among volunteers.
Small groups of dedicated folks working towards the common goal of conservation was not something I expected to encounter working for a large Federal agency.
With smaller staffs, the NWR System often relies on volunteers from the local community and “Friends Groups” to help achieve our conservation mission.
Having grown up in a family that was seemingly always on the move, I quickly fell in love with this close-knit community crew approach to conservation.
After two years at the Ventura office, I was fortunate enough to be offered a position as the Manager of Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge, and I jumped at the opportunity.
Seal Beach NWR has a long history as a major endangered species conservation and outreach refuge in Southern California. Officially established in 1974 in collaboration with the Department of Defense, the 965-acre refuge is nestled within Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach.
The refuge serves to protect some of the last remaining tidal saltwater marsh habitat in Southern California, as well as a number of threatened and endangered species that rely on the habitat, including light-footed Ridgway’s rails, California least terns, Pacific green sea turtles, Belding’s Savannah sparrows, and a number of native plant species.
As the only full-time Fish and Wildlife Service employee on site, I rely heavily on that community outreach spirit in order to manage the vast marshland habitats. Fortunately for me, Seal Beach NWR is home to the Friends of Seal Beach, literally the best friend’s group in the nation as winners of the 2022 National Wildlife Refuge Associations’ Friends Group of the Year Award.
Our Friend’s Group is made up of an amazing team of volunteers dedicated to conservation, wildlife, education, and whole heartedly support the refuge mission. The Refuge really couldn’t function properly without their support.
While the refuge has unfortunately been closed to the public since the beginning of the pandemic and associated increases in base security protocols, my first and primary goal as Refuge Manager has been to work with the Navy to resume monthly tours.
The Navy has been and continues to be a great partner for the refuge as we work towards that goal. We are nearly there, and I encourage people who want to experience the refuge to get in touch regarding access in January.
For those of you reading this who may want to make a difference on the refuge and be a part of the amazing work conducted by Friends of Seal Beach NWR, please get in touch with Joe, a longtime Friends Member and current treasurer at: email@example.com, for more information. If you have a passion for gardening, birds, marine life, or even administration and outreach, there is a place for you on the refuge.
This refuge is something very special, it’s a collaborative effort, and I am honored to be a part of it! I look forward to meeting you all soon and I am excited to once again be able to share this amazing natural habitat with the community..