Veteran Refuge Chief Jim Kurth Appointed as Service’s New Deputy Director

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Washington, DC -( U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe today announced the appointment of Jim Kurth as the agency’s new Deputy Director for Operations.

Kurth, a 35-year veteran of the Fish and Wildlife Service, will assist Director Ashe in managing day-to-day operations and provide additional key executive leadership for the agency. Kurth is a career federal employee who has served as Chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System since 2011. He steps into the position vacated by long-time Deputy Director Rowan Gould, who retired in December after a distinguished 38-year career with the Service.

“Jim Kurth is a natural leader with proven ability to effectively manage far-flung operations and meet complex conservation challenges. He understands how to multiply resources, and inspire and engage people. Most importantly, Jim loves the Service, its employees and its partners,” said Director Ashe. “I’m excited to work with Jim to continue improving the agency and strengthening our landscape-level collaborations with state wildlife agencies and other key partners.”

As Deputy Director for Operations, Kurth will promote and implement the agency’s mission and priorities throughout the United States and abroad by developing and strengthening partnerships with other federal agencies and foreign governments, states, tribes, non-governmental organizations and the private sector. He will also assist the Director in ensuring agency performance and accountability, customer service, and consistent application of all Service resource management policies.

Kurth will be responsible for managing the day-to-day implementation of the Service’s field-based mission. This includes overseeing an appropriated budget of $2.5 billion, and nearly 9,000 employees working across the nation and in many foreign countries. These employees spearhead efforts to conserve the nation’s native fish, wildlife and plants on 562 national wildlife refuges and 38 wetland management districts encompassing more than 150 million acres in all 50 states; operate 69 National Fish Hatcheries; and administer fish and wildlife programs, including endangered species recovery, from 64 Fishery Resources Offices and 81 Ecological Services Field Offices nationwide.

As Chief of the 111 year-old National Wildlife Refuge System for more than three years, Kurth oversaw the world’s premier system of public lands and waters set aside to conserve America’s fish, wildlife, and plants.

Prior to becoming Chief, Kurth served as the Refuge System’s Deputy Chief for 12 years beginning in 1999. During this 15-year period of unprecedented growth, the Refuge System added more than 60 new units encompassing more than 50 million acres. Beginning in 2011, he led development and implementation of “Conserving the Future: Wildlife Refuges and the Next Generation” – a renewed vision for the future growth and management of the Refuge System.

Kurth began his Refuge System career in 1979 at Mississippi SandhiIl Crane National Wildlife Refuge. He then moved on to a series of positions with progressively greater responsibilities at Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in Florida, Bogue Chitto National Wildlife Refuge in Louisiana, Seney National Wildlife Refuge in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge in Rhode Island.

Beginning in 1994 until he became Deputy Chief, Kurth managed the 20 million-acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northern Alaska – the largest refuge in the United States. Arctic also contains an 8-million-acre Wilderness Area – the largest within the Refuge System. During his time there, Kurth proved adept at bringing competing interests together and navigating complex environmental challenges affecting one of the nation’s most prominent refuges. Kurth holds a degree in wildlife management from the College of Natural Resources at the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point.

Kurth and his wife of 37 years, Tricia, their three children, and grandchildren, all live in the Northern Virginia area.

About U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit