Spotlight on a Recovery Champion: Dr. Sadie Stevens

By Denise Clay

Since 2002, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has celebrated the contributions and achievements of nationally recognized Recovery Champions–staff and partners recognized nationally for their dedication to the conservation of threatened and endangered species.

This year, the North Atlantic-Appalachian Region is pleased to celebrate its very own Dr. Sadie Stevens for her work to improve coordination between U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service offices and strengthen relationships with state agencies receiving funding under the Cooperative Endangered Species Grant Programs.

three people smile from a river bank
Dr. Stevens with biologists visiting a New Hampshire project site. USFWS

As a fish and wildlife biologist with the regional Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program (WSFR), Stevens helps grantees navigate the federal process and monitors projects for the program. Since she assumed this role in 2015, Stevens has ensured the delivery of more than $5.3 million in grants to 16 state agencies.

Collectively these grants have resulted in significant recovery actions for 85 federally listed species in the region, including work that has led to the Service’s recommendations to delist the northeastern bulrush and American hart’s-tongue fern, and to downlist the Furbish’s lousewort. Stevens ensures that grantees follow competitive granting requirements, and keeps information on state legal authorities for listed species management up-to-date. Her professionalism, collaborative approach, and attention to detail has resulted in greater transparency and clarity for state agencies applying for grant funds.

When asked about her conservation achievements, rather than point to one thing, Stevens said she loves that she has a role in a diversity of projects. “One of the great things about working in WSFR is that I get to play a small part in help make so many projects happen, from research designed to help us better understand and manage white-nose syndrome in bats, to thinning canopy cover to help a tiny endangered plant population survive, to purchasing land so that and other populations have space to live into the future,” she said.

She finds satisfaction in seeing everyone’s small contributions add up to meaningful conservation results. “I’m constantly inspired by the amazing work our dedicated partners and colleagues in field offices are doing on the ground every day,” she said.

a woman smiles and stands with two small horses
Sadie giving attention to her rescue miniature horses at her home.

Outside of work, Dr. Stevens loves anything to do with the outdoors, including hiking with her two dogs, gardening and removing invasive species on her property, which is adjacent to a conservation land easement, and taking care of two rescue miniature horses (ages 14 and 22) that she adopted in 2019.

When it comes to motivation, Dr. Stevens says she is “proud of working for the FWS’s mission and protecting species” and doing whatever she can to help at home.

“In life in general, it’s easy to find awe and inspiration in the big moments, like flying over the mass migration in the Serengeti, or the unforgettable ones, like the time a black mamba — one of the world’s deadliest snakes — came sliding out from under a rock I had spent the whole day sitting on to observe otter behavior,” she said.

“But I think it’s the interaction with nature we all have in daily life that keeps me going day after day, wherever I’ve lived.”

Anything from a dove nesting on a balcony in the city, pollinators buzzing around in a pocket park, or young squirrels playing on a tree in her suburban yard.

“I still remember as a kid going to the zoo, and experiencing a spider monkey putting its hand up to mine against the glass. I couldn’t tell you where that zoo was or anything else about it, but I’ll never forget that moment of connection.”

That potential for connection is what drew her to environmental education early in her career, as well as human dimensions where her PhD research and coursework focused on human dimensions (HD) of wildlife conservation. Dr. Stevens continued to teach courses and advise students on HD research as an adjunct professor for many years after graduating. She has continued to stay involved in HD work in the Service whenever possible with activities like a recent survey of Service supervisors to inform WSFR’s communication plan development..

“That connection with nature is so important and inspiring. I think if we want to be successful in conservation in the long-term, it’s critical that we foster connection to nature among everyone in the ways that are meaningful to them,” she said.

And she cherishes her role in making that happen.

“I love the position I’m in to help people and partners come together for conservation” said Stevens and we’re so proud to have you on our team.

For photos and information about the 2020 Recovery Champions, please visit: https://www.fws.gov/endangered/what-we-do/recovery-champions/index.html

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information about our work and the people who make it happen, visit https://www.fws.gov/northeast/ or connect with us via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr.

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