Piloting the Relevancy Roadmap

Piloting the Relevancy Roadmap

The Wildlife Management Institute (WMI) is working with six states to pilot implementation of the Fish and Wildlife Relevancy Roadmap. Funding provided by a Multi-State Conservation Grant from the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is being used to provide consultation, training, and other forms of support for efforts by Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania to overcome barriers to engaging and serving broader constituencies. The states’ projects include developing enhanced stakeholder engagement processes, surveying residents in two states to identify ways to attract new users to state wildlife areas, exploring ways to reduce the gaps between one agency’s culture and minority and Hispanic communities, and understanding barriers to participation in fishing and boating among residents of a large metropolitan area. WMI will also create an online portal where these six states and any others that are working to expand their constituencies can share ideas, successes, and lessons learned. Broadening constituency support for fish and wildlife conservation will be more important than ever, given the likely social and economic conditions the country will face in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Indiana DNR Staff conducts a public fishing program

The Fish and Wildlife Relevancy Roadmap was developed by a diverse group of agency, non-government, and industry representatives to help agencies enhance conservation through engagement with more citizens. The Roadmap provides strategies and tactics to overcome 19 barriers to engaging and serving broader constituencies. The barriers are related to agency culture, constituent culture, agency capacity, constituent capacity, and legal and political constraints.

The Roadmap was endorsed by state fish and wildlife agency directors at the AFWA annual meeting in September, 2019. Also at that meeting, the directors approved a proposal from WMI for a grant to pilot test implementation of the Roadmap in 2020. WMI solicited proposals from states in the Fall of 2019 and selected projects from Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania to be part of the pilot project.

The projects in the six states target different barriers and strategies in the roadmap:

  • The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is developing stakeholder engagement strategies for two of its six divisions. The strategies will help staff define target audiences; increase staff awareness of and capacity to match the appropriate engagement action or methodology to the purpose, timing, location and audience for conservation issues; and identify and fill training needs related to increasing and improving stakeholder engagement with broader constituencies.
  • The Indiana Division of Fish and Wildlife will interview people within a 25 mile radius of two Fish and Wildlife Areas (one urban, one rural) to gain a better understanding of the behavioral motivators for participating in conservation activities. This information will be used to design and implement programs in partnership with volunteers that are attractive to new constituencies.
  • The Iowa Department of Natural Resources will re-examine data from their most recent Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan to identify participants in and develop questions for several focus groups to gain a better understanding of wildlife watchers’ and outdoor photographers’ interests and needs. They will also conduct surveys of local property managers of Bird Conservation Areas and Important Bird Areas to compare their perceptions with those of the public and form an advisory group to inform changes to amenities and programs to benefit wildlife viewing and photography.
  • The Missouri Department of Conservation is developing an internal relevancy plan as they increase their efforts to better understand and serve the needs of existing and new constituents.
  • The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission is focusing on improving alignment of their agency culture with the culture of nontraditional outdoor recreationists (e.g., kayakers, cyclists, equestrians, birders, geocachers, hikers, etc.), under-represented minorities, the Spanish-speaking community, and urban/suburban constituents. The agency will use its Partnership for Inclusion framework to help guide efforts to recruit and retain a more diverse staff, create a working environment that welcomes new and different employees and constituents, establish internships and a mentoring program to connect experienced staff with youth in minority communities, and engage the Hispanic community to bridge linguistic and cultural gaps.
  • The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission will conduct research into the interests, knowledge, and skill levels of urban and suburban residents of the Philadelphia metropolitan area related to angling. Results will be used to design effective outreach and develop additional fishing opportunities like those provided at the Gaun First Catch Center to engage more diverse participants in angling and boating.

WMI will provide consultation and training as requested by these states to advance their efforts. In addition, WMI is providing financial support by purchasing supplies, paying costs associated with interviews, and contracting with research firms to gather and analyze data about constituencies to inform implementation plans.

WMI will also use Multi-State Conservation Grant funds to develop an online portal, similar to the R3 Community Portal, where anyone involved or interested in implementing the Roadmap can share ideas, successes, and lessons learned. WMI Director of Special Programs Matt Dunfee said, “The overall goal of the grant is to pilot test implementation of the Relevancy Roadmap and create an online portal where these six states and many others that are working to expand their constituencies can share ideas, successes, and lessons learned.”

Broadening constituencies’ involvement with and support for conservation has been a central theme of discussions among state and federal agencies for over a decade. The Relevancy Roadmap is designed to help agencies accomplish that goal. In his remarks at the recent North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference, WMI President Steve Williams emphasized the need to engage more citizens to provide the financial resources and political backing agencies, non-government organizations, and industry will need to address threats to fish and wildlife populations and their habitats.

Photo Credit
Tom Britt, Flickr
April 15, 2020