Special Session at the North American Focuses on Making Agency Relevance a Reality

Special Session at the North American Focuses on Making Agency Relevance a Reality

Sustaining and growing public support for wildlife conservation and management is a high priority on state and national wildlife conservation agendas. Without public support, little meaningful conservation is likely to occur; with it, much is possible. Over the past decade, North American conferences have hosted sessions that explored incentives and challenges for agency transformation. Speakers have discussed ways to communicate relevancy of wildlife conservation, examined societal trends that change what ?relevance? means, demonstrated ways agencies have addressed their public trust responsibilities, and even proposed principles for governing wildlife conservation administration. The relevancy-improvement theme will be developed further in a special session at the 82nd North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference titled Making Relevance a Reality. This is one of four concurrent Special Sessions planned for Wednesday, March 8, 2017 from 10 a.m. to noon at the Davenport Grand Hotel, Spokane, WA.

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Last March, concurrent with the 81st North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference, the Blue Ribbon Panel on Sustaining America?s Diverse Fish and Wildlife Resources issued its final report, The Future of America?s Fish and Wildlife. The Blue Ribbon Panel recommended: (1) Congress markedly increase funding for fish and wildlife conservation and (2) a subset of the panel continue as a working group on improving relevancy of fish and wildlife conservation and to ?make recommendations on how programs and agencies can transform to engage and serve broader constituencies.? The second recommendation concentrated on broadening stakeholder representation to ensure fish and wildlife conservation remains relevant to and supported by a broad swath of Americans. This recommendation coming from the Blue Ribbon Panel emphasized the urgency of making relevancy a reality for public fish and wildlife programs and agencies nationwide.

Previous presentations at the North American and the Blue Ribbon Panel meetings have emphasized that fish and wildlife programs and agencies need to connect with and be valued by a larger proportion of society or risk losing public support for conservation. Many agency leaders acknowledge the need for change in this direction, but experience has shown that embracing broad wildlife interests is not typical among wildlife agencies. Progress in fulfilling public trust responsibilities to all citizens, regardless of the nature of their interest in fish and wildlife, has been slow for a variety of reasons. At this session, these and other issues impacting agency relevance will be addressed by a line-up of experienced professionals from a variety of sectors in the conservation community.

Speakers will review how we have arrived to where we are now. They will address the double-barreled questions, What is the problem and why does it exist? What is relevance in conservation? and Why is it important and are we ready for it? In addition, the session will focus on how to move the needle from being a relevant program or agency to being valued, and then to being supported. Practical and urgent topics to be covered include:

  • Elevating conservation?s position on the public agenda: What does the playbook for a 21st century conservation movement need to contain? (Basically, what process for change should be adopted?)
  • In light of the Blue Ribbon Panel recommendations and implementation committee work, where should change effort be focused initially to energize the process of increasing relevancy and perceived value to more Americans?

Increasing concern about the relevance of wildlife conservation to society poses a novel challenge for wildlife stewards who recognize that without public interest and support, we cannot fulfill our conservation responsibilities to current and future generations. With this challenge in mind, the upcoming 2017 session takes the next step in providing guidance for Making Relevance a Reality by exploring the concept of relevance in the context of wildlife conservation; reflecting on our relationship with the public currently and potentially, and discussing the importance of that relationship to ensuring successful conservation outcomes.

Learn more about the North American Conference.

Photo Credit
Mount Rainier National Park, Flickr
December 14, 2016