susan l. white

Board member, Detroit Riverfront Conservancy
Refuge Manager, Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service


Susan White assumed management of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge in July 2018.  The only international Refuge in the nation, Detroit River is managed as one of 566 Refuges within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s National Refuge System to protect remaining fish and wildlife habitats and restore degraded habitats associated with the Detroit River, assist in international efforts to conserve native ecological community characteristics, and facilitate partnerships to promote awareness of Detroit River resources. Established in 2001 by an Act of Congress, the Refuge continues to be a trusted partner in the remarkable ecological recovery and restoration of the Detroit River, Western Lake Erie Basin, and Downriver communities.

Between 2007 and 2018, prior to her recent return to the Detroit area, White supervised management of four Marine National Monuments in the western Pacific Ocean based in Honolulu, Hawai`i (Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument and World Heritage Site and the Pacific Remote Islands, Rose Atoll, and Marianas Trench Marine National Monuments).  Susan led USFWS coordination with interagency, international, and traditional indigenous partners to establish productive and effective multi-agency frameworks for comprehensive conservation of the largest protected areas in the world including more than 756 million acres (1.81 million square miles, 3 million square kilometers) of ocean, islands, and atolls.  Coordination efforts focused on conservation of more than 28 million seabirds, vast coral reefs, 26 threatened or endangered species and their habitats, sacred cultural sites, iconic World War II historic resources, as well as supporting the perpetuation of indigenous cultures and traditions of Oceania.

In addition to her work in the Pacific, during her 29 years in the management of coastal and marine protected areas White initiated and implemented successful conservation and resource management through NGOs  in south Florida and at the Saba Marine Park in the Dutch Caribbean, as well as oversaw refuge management from the USFWS Atlanta Regional Office. White also helped develop national policies for coastal, coral reef, and ocean conservation while serving as national coordinator at the USFWS headquarters in Washington, D.C.  She was a crafter of two bilateral conservation management agreements between the United States and the Republic of Kiribati, is a founding member of Big Ocean Managers’ Network, and has been a member of IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas since 1990.

A recipient of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s second highest service recognition, the Distinguished Service Award, Susan was recognized for her leadership in formalizing Service marine protection programs, generating marine protected area policy, and successfully executing on-the-ground restoration and resource management including eradicating rats from islands and removing shipwrecks from sensitive reefs. Now back home in the Detroit area where she grew-up, Susan looks forward to applying global lessons learned to the restoration and recovery of healthy Southeastern Michigan natural and neighborhood communities, bringing diverse groups together to achieve ecological, economic, and socially equitable balance. A Central Michigan University alumnus, Susan has one grown son who lives in New York and is making her new home in the Downriver Detroit area.