Friends of former Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge Manager Stuart Marcus gathered in the Liberty Center in Liberty on Oct. 26 to celebrate his retirement and his life’s work, which has spanned more than four decades and six different wildlife refuges in Florida and Texas.
After working a dozen years for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at refuges in Florida, Marcus moved to Liberty County in 1994 to start the Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge. His retirement at the end of October ended his day-to-day responsibilities on the Refuge, but Marcus plans to continue doing what he calls “the fun stuff,” such as hosting the annual Moth Night Out and Insect Night Out, and volunteering for events at Champion Public Use Area in Dayton, the Refuge’s main public use area.
Over the last seven years, since the Refuge has moved from its previous office on Main Street in Liberty to its headquarters on FM 1011 (directly across from Sam Houston Regional Library), Marcus has cataloged more than 900 species of moths, most collected right around the headquarters.
“It just kept on going. As moths became too boring for him, he started on other insects,” said TRNWR Biologist Laurie Gonzales with a chuckle. “He has already found 300 species of insects on our building as well.”
To surprise him at his retirement, TRNWR staff, with the help of the Friends of the Trinity River Refuge, took all the data and photos Marcus has collected on moths and put it into two bound volumes. The books are titled “The Inventory, Monitoring and Phenology of Arthropoda of Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters (2012-2019)” with the writing credit given to Marcus.
The Friends of the Trinity River Refuge provided the foreward for the book. A letter from Marcus’s four staff members also was included.
“I always told him that with all the research he did on moths, he could have written a book. He never did, so I went ahead and got him to write an abstract introduction and the conclusions and everything else. I took all of the data he collected and put it into these two books,” Gonzales said. “The degree that he received is a Doctor of Ps.”
Marcus explained that a running joke within the agency was that he had become a master of Ps for managing the more mundane parts of the job such as personnel, politicians, poachers, permits, polluters, phones, paperwork, peacemaking and psychology.
Under his stewardship, Marcus helped the Refuge grow from the initial 4,400 acres to 30,000 acres today.
“Our staff has opened many of these areas to hunting, fishing, wildlife watching, kayaking, boating and things like that,” he said.
He is proud of recent improvements that were made to the Champions Public Use Area south of Dayton off of FM 1409. The Refuge has replaced the porta-potty with a permanent bathroom facility that can accommodate a larger number of guests, particularly school field trips.
“We have more than 40 miles of trails and have planted 300,000 seedlings to restore the forest,” he said. “We will continue to purchase land from willing sellers and will open more areas for hunting, fishing, wildlife watching and hiking. One of our biggest projects coming up is from our Friends group. They are working on the 70-year-old lodge at Champion Lake.”
Marcus said the goal is to open the lodge as an education center for school children from Chambers and Liberty counties.
“Nothing like this exists in Liberty County, especially for school kids,” he said.
To help kick off the project, Marcus asked the guests at his retirement celebration to consider making a donation to the Friends of the Trinity River Refuge.
“I have a lot of brochures here for Friends of the Trinity River Refuge. There is a big catch though. I have a check right here for $1,000 and I am going to match all of the donations that are made here tonight,” he said.
Marcus joked that if he had known how nice people were going to be to him in retirement, he might have done it sooner. He shared a conversation he had with a friend who asked him what he had planned for the first regular workday in his retirement.
“I was pondering the question with a friend of what I will do on Monday, Nov. 4, when I wake up, not having to go to work. Not giving my friend a good enough answer, my friend said, ‘Wake up with a smile and say, ‘I don’t work for Trump anymore,'” Marcus said with a laugh.