Refuge manager named

Wednesday, July 27, 2005
Jeremy Bennett (left), newly appointed refuge manager at the Big Lake National Wildlife Refuge, receives the Outstanding Maintenance Award from Col. Charles O. Smithers III, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Memphis District. This is the fourth consecutive year the refuge has received the award.

The Big Lake National Wildlife Refuge has a new manager this week. Jeremy Bennett, who has served as temporary manager at the refuge permanently, was assigned this week as full time refuge manager, and will officially take that post Monday.

Bennett, 27, was assigned as acting refuge manager for four months in 2004. His assignment ended when Aaron Mize was assigned to the refuge permanently as biotechnician. Mize still works at the refuge in that capacity.

All of the funding for the Big Lake refuge comes from the budget of the Cache River Wildlife Refuge.

"Because of budget cutbacks, they were not going to fill the refuge manager position," Bennett explained.

However, there was a great deal of concern on the part of the Cache River staff for the safety of Mize working at the Big Lake Refuge alone.

So, Bennett explained his position as assistant refuge operator at Cache River was deleted from the budget, and the position of refuge manager was recreated at Big Lake.

"This is a great opportunity for me, to be able to move up in my career with Fish and Wildlife, and to be able to move closer to home."

Bennett was born and raised in Maulden in the bootheel of Missouri. He and his wife Julie have a three month old son, Gabe, and are in the process of moving to Manila.

He earned his bachelor's degree in Wildlife Biology from Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky, and is currently completing his masters degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Management at Mississippi State University in Starksville.

All of Bennett's work so far has been with wild fowl and waterfowl management. He worked in the Canadian Arctic above the tree line with snow geese; conducted a waterfowl survey for the state of Kentucky; and conducted a survival study of mourning doves for the United States Geological Survey before being employed at the Cache River refuge.

"My focus in the short term is bringing maintenance back up to speed, promoting community involvement, and continuing to work with the Arkansas Game and Fish on joint projects," Bennett said. "But the big thin I want to do is to promote education about the complex in the community, and I am going to get all of that done and still mow," he said with a grin.

Bennett was at the refuge Tuesday to receive the Outstanding Maintenance Award from Col. Charles O. Smithers III of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Memphis District.

"These guys are taking care of this refuge for the people, and that's what its all about," Smithers said. "This 'team of two' is taking good care of this out here, and they don't always get enough credit for what they do."

Bennett said after pushing since October to be stationed at Big Lake full time, he is glad to finally be here.

"I am excited to finally be part of this community," he said.

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