Felix Smith

For thirty-four years, Felix served as a fish and wildlife biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service. Felix is a lifelong advocate for the protection of fish and wildlife habitat, and for responsible use of our precious water resources.

Felix was one of the biologists on the team that found the first deformed birds in 1983 at Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge, located in California’s Sacramento San Joaquin Delta region, was an artificial wetland that received agricultural runoff as its primary water source. Selenium is a component of the leachate from the area’s irrigated agricultural land that caused the death of fish and deformities and death in birds in the refuge. Felix Smith risked his career to make sure that the truth wasn’t kept hidden.

In Death in the Marsh, author Tom Harris, then a reporter for the Sacramento Bee, wrote: “But more than any other person, Felix Smith was responsible for bringing the selenium story out of the closet into which some of his superiors and the Fish and Wildlife Service, and theirs in turn at the Department of Interior, initially tried to keep it locked up. While it was perhaps the finest moment in a distinguished career as a dedicated public servant, Smith will be remembered more for his unswerving commitment to the true mission of his agency: the protection of this nation’s wildlife heritage. He put his career on the line for the critters when it counted most.

As a fisheries biologist, Felix has also written and given testimony about the preservation and restoration of fish and wildlife habitat. He currently serves on the board of Save the American River Association and is a member of the Environmental Water Caucus of the Sacramento Area Water Forum.