Name: Janine Van Norman

Position: Chief of the Branch of Foreign Species, Endangered Species Program, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Best known for: Working to protect endangered foreign species. As the Fish and Wildlife Service’s first branch chief for foreign species, Van Norman helps to protect animals and plants native to foreign countries that are at risk of becoming extinct. There are more than 600 foreign species protected under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Van Norman and her team of three biologists conduct year-long scientific reviews to analyze how many of a particular species are left in the wild and the threats to the species and their habitats. U.S. citizens and residents without the proper permits are prohibited from activities such as hunting, selling, importing or exporting the threatened or endangered species on the U.S. lists. The regulation effort is meant to ensure that the United States does not contribute to the further decline of the protected species.

Van Norman also investigates whether certain species should be reclassified from threatened to endangered or from endangered to threatened, and whether risks have been reduced or eliminated. Her agency recently removed from the endangered and threatened species list the Morelet’s crocodile. This species was first listed as endangered in June 1970.

Government service: Van Norman started at the Fish and Wildlife Service as a wildlife inspector at John F. Kennedy International Airport. She also served as the supervisory wildlife inspector at the Port of Miami, had a stint in Baltimore as a field inspector and moved to the service’s headquarters in Arlington County. There she worked as an intelligence analyst supporting investigations into high-profile wildlife trafficking cases. Before her current role, she spent four years as the national energy coordinator for the National Wildlife Refuge System.

Motivation for service: Van Norman comes from a long line of Interior Department employees. Her father was a civil engineer with the Bureau of Reclamation in Colorado, and her sister is a district manager for the Bureau of Land Management in Oregon. Van Norman said her father “encouraged us to work for the federal government, because they [the federal government] will always put corn flakes on the table.”

Biggest challenge: Since Van Norman reviews species located outside the United States, she must rely heavily on information from foreign nations, experts and various data to determine how many of the species are left in the wild, the threats to their habitats and survival. Not being on the ground conducting the research can be challenging, particularly when there are gaps in the data for some of the species, or there are only one or two researchers in the world who are experts on a species.

Quote: “It takes a while to see the results once you put protections in place, but we are making a difference by taking a really thoughtful approach to wildlife conservation. The ultimate goal is recovering the species, and we are doing this with some. Ideally, it would be all, but we are making headway.”

— From the Partnership

for Public Service

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