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Ron K.
Democrat WI 3

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  • Recognizing the Retirement and Career of James ``Jim’’ Nissen

    by Representative Ron Kind

    Posted on 2015-01-22

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    KIND of wisconsin in the house of representatives Thursday, January 22, 2015 Mr. KIND. Mr. Speaker, today I rise in honor of the career and retirement of James ``Jim'' Nissen. After twenty-six years as La Crosse District Manager of the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge and nearly 39 years with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Mr. Nissen announced his retirement on January second 2015.

    Nissen held seasonal positions with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Nebraska, Illinois, Missouri, Minnesota, and South Dakota. He also held permanent positions in Indiana, Vermont, Utah, and Wisconsin. Each station offered new opportunities and challenges and developed his career from a student trainee to Refuge Manager.

    Mr. Nissen is not a native of the La Crosse, WI area, but according to his colleagues, ``no one knows this refuge better than he does.'' Nissen grew up in a duck hunting family in northeastern Nebraska, not far from the Platte River and among the prairie pothole country that produces much of the continent's canvasback ducks. Jim's career followed this regal bird across the country and in 1989, Nissen came to the La Crosse District after two years of overseeing the Horicon National Wildlife Refuge on the eastern side of Wisconsin. The Horicon position marked his return to Wisconsin; Nissen had been there in 1976 for the Canada goose dispersal program, where he not only helped manage the goose population, but also met his wife Ruth.

    The La Crosse position offered Nissen the chance to get back to a river-based assignment--his true passion. Nissen fell in love with the abundance of canvasbacks, also referred to as ``the king of ducks,'' that the Upper Mississippi River and La Crosse area boast during fall migration. ``I like rivers and canvasbacks and people,'' Nissen said, ``so it was a good fit.'' Each fall, the Upper Mississippi River allows Nissen to see nearly half of the world's canvasback population pass by his window during migration. ``It really is a world-class spectacle,'' Nissen said.

    During his tenure at LaCrosse, Jim received numerous awards and accolades including the Meritorious Service Award of the Department of the Interior in 2007. He has overseen multi-million dollar habitat enhancement projects funded through the Environmental Management Program; he has acquired over 2,500 acres of lands for inclusion in the National Wildlife Refuge; he has overseen the construction of a LEED certified Visitor Center and office; and he is regarded as a leader in wetland and waterfowl ecology and management.

    Jim's departure will create a profound void in the Upper Miss' institutional knowledge. His energy, wisdom, humor, innate ability to remember dates, and his many discussions will be missed terribly by all who worked alongside him. I wish both Jim, Ruth, and their son Travis all the best in the years to come.


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