Leadership Change at the Iroquois Refuge


(This 716th Buffalo Sunday News column was first published on December 19, 2004.)



With the beginning of the new year, leadership at the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge will pass into new hands. Bob Lamoy is retiring as refuge manager and Tom Roster is taking over.


I have come to know Bob Lamoy very well over the seven years he has spent at Iroquois. We've met often at the Friends board meetings and, together with Mike Noonan and Tony Wagner, we've worked closely on developing signs for the new Swallow Hollow Trail. I consider Bob not only an excellent steward of the only national parklands on the Niagara Frontier but a good friend as well. I join all of you here who will hate to see him leave.


Bob Lamoy was raised on a small farm near Plattsburg, New York. When he was very young, his grandfather took him fishing and -- little did his grandfather know -- he set this youngster on a career path.


An idealistic young man, while he was still in high school, Bob decided to pursue a line of work which would help to leave places on earth where his children and grandchildren could appreciate the outdoors he knew and loved. To support this goal he enrolled in Syracuse University's Forestry College, now renamed the tongue-twisting State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry -- perhaps to increase use of that forest product, paper. Easily the most important asset Bob gained while he was an undergraduate there was his wife, Wendy.


Facing an Army hitch upon graduation, Bob felt very fortunate to land a short-term job at the Huntington Wildlife Research Forest in Newcomb, New York as a wildlife technician. On his first day there he assisted in the capture and tagging of four deer. When he described this to me, Bob added, "That experience alone would hook anyone for a vocation working with wildlife!"


Upon his Army discharge, Bob returned to Syracuse University and, for his field work, to the Huntington Forest to complete his master's degree in environmental science.


But even before he finished, he was offered a position as assistant refuge manager at the Lacreek National Wildlife Refuge in South Dakota. Bob and Wendy packed their van with their two children, two dogs, three cats and a freezer full enough of bear meat to last them through the winter and headed west. They moved into a small house on the refuge thirteen miles from the nearest town along dirt section-line roads where they lived for the next six years. At Lacreek twin girls completed Wendy and Bob's family.


They packed up again and moved back east in the mid-1980s with Bob taking assistant refuge manager positions first at Brigantine in New Jersey, then at Eastern Neck, Maryland. In 1993 he was appointed deputy refuge manager at Montezuma in Seneca Falls and the family finally returned to New York State for good.


Here the jobs piled up. For part of his time at Montezuma Bob was acting refuge manager and he continued there into 1998. But meanwhile in August 1997 he was appointed acting refuge manager at Iroquois. Those two jobs overlapped for several months until he settled into his current post as Iroquois refuge manager in early 1998, finally ending this game of musical chairs.


Although we've been to many meetings together, I will best remember Bob for our jouncing rides through the refuge in his pick-up truck, visiting grasslands specially planted for wildlife; examining locks that control water levels between marshes every summer but this past one; and talking about the refuge staff he says "are so dedicated and who make my life so much easier."


Tom Roster does enjoy good qualifications to fill Bob Lamoy's extra large boots. From rural Aitken, Minnesota and a 1990 University of Minnesota graduate, he comes to us from Virginia's Chincoteague refuge where he was deputy refuge manager. Most of you here know Chincoteague for those wild Assateague Island ponies but I know it for its rare piping plovers. It is a wonderful refuge that includes many windswept Atlantic Ocean barrier beaches.


Before that he served on seven refuges: San Diego, California; Ottawa, Ohio; Swan Lake, Missouri; Agassiz and Minnesota Valley, Minnesota; Horicon, Wisconsin; and Red Rock Lakes, Montana.


His vita tells us that Tom has extensive background in managing wetlands and moist soil units for waterfowl, shorebirds and other wetland dependant species; public uses like hunting, fishing, and bird watching; and that he was a commissioned refuge officer from 1991 to 2001. He also graduated from the Servicešs Advanced Leadership Development Program in August 2003 and was detailed from December 2003 to March 2004 to the Office of the Secretary, National Business Center to assist in pulling together the Office of Appraisal Services. I hope that that brief office assignment will prepare Tom to address those political and administrative problems that confront wildlife managers and take their attention from the work with birds and animals they are so good at.


Tom brings with him to western New York his wife, Angela, and two young sons, five-year old Canyon and three-year old Colm.


Bob tells me that when he has hunters and birders pulling him in opposite directions on the same issue, he must be doing something right. I hope Tom will manage those same problems equally well.


For there's a lot here to handle: 10,818 acres, that's seventeen square miles, of wetlands, forest and grasslands; seven employees; hundreds of us who hunt, fish and watch wildlife and a few dozen normal people as well; 1,738 other snapping turtles; lots of deer; even an occasional bear; and several gazillion carp and Canada geese.


Welcome and good fortune, Angela and Tom; very best wishes and God speed, Wendy and Bob.-- Gerry Rising