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WMI and Partners Provide Training in Public Trust and Good Governance
The Wildlife Management Institute (WMI) along with Cornell University, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA) Management Assistance Team, and staff from three state agencies is providing training on putting public trust into practice. The training consists of two webinars scheduled in March and a workshop in each AFWA region. The Western regional workshop will be held May 22 to 24 in Estes Park, Colorado. Workshops for the Northeast, Southeast, and Midwest regions are set for August. The training is designed to help state agencies improve their relevance, as recommended by the AFWA Blue Ribbon Panel. The first webinar, “Wildlife Governance Principles Tools for Better Conservation,” will be held on March 15 and registration is now open.
State agencies are facing an increasingly challenging management environment. Human impacts on wildlife populations and habitats are accelerating, people’s desires for how wildlife is managed are changing and often in conflict, and the range of stakeholders who demand a role in decision making is expanding. Agencies are also facing a crisis of relevancy and credibility. Americans are disconnected from the natural world, have competing values where conservation is a low priority or irrelevant to them, or are focused on a narrow range of interests. The AFWA Blue Ribbon Panel on Sustaining America’s Diverse Fish and Wildlife Resources found that state agencies must adapt to remain relevant and effective in the face of the changing social, economic, and ecological landscape.
Wildlife Governance Principles based on the integration of public trust thinking and good governance norms were recently developed to help provide guidance for the necessary adaptation. Public trust thinking reflects that certain resources are an intergenerational inheritance, held in trust by government for the benefit of all citizens. Modern society’s expectations for “good governance” include transparent and participatory decision making, equitable consideration of diverse views and values, effective and efficient administration, strategic and adaptive thinking, and accountability of government. These virtues are captured in the Wildlife Governance Principles. By aligning practices more closely with these principles, agencies will be better positioned to fulfill their responsibility to manage fish and wildlife in ways that reflect good governance in a public trust framework. As a result, agencies can expect to be more responsive and relevant to the citizens and enjoy broader public support and success.
Using funds from a 2016 Multi-State Conservation Grant, WMI’s Western Field Representative, Chris Smith, worked with Dr. Dan Decker and Meghan Baumer from Cornell University, Ann Forstchen with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Dr. Pat Lederle with the Michigan Division of Wildlife, and Michael Schiavone with the New York Department of Environmental Conservation to develop an assessment tool to evaluate the alignment of agency traits and practices with the Wildlife Governance Principles. The tool was tested in Florida, Michigan, Montana, and New York. Smith said, “Each of the states found the tool highly useful in their efforts to adapt to the challenges they face.”
A 2017 Multi-State Conservation Grant is now providing partial funding for training state agency staff in putting public trust into practice. The full training regime will consist of two webinars and a workshop. The first webinar, “Wildlife Governance Principles: Tools for Better Conservation” is scheduled for March 15th from 2:00 – 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time. Registration is now open. Participation in the live event is limited to the first 100 participants, but if you are not able to attend the live webinar, it will be recorded and posted on the matlearning.org website for free, on-demand later viewing.
Smith explained that the webinars are intended to provide a nationwide audience with background on the principles and development of the assessment tool. The workshop will provide hands-on training in how to use the assessment tool to uncover an agency’s strengths and identify practices to target for improvement with respect to the principles. One workshop will be held in each of the AFWA regions to make the training accessible to all 50 state agencies while keeping travel costs down. The Western workshop is scheduled for May 22 to 24 in Estes Park, Colorado. The Northeast, Southeast, and Midwest workshops are scheduled for August 2 to 4, August 7 to 9, and August 28 to 30 in yet-to-be-determined locations.
“Our overall goal with this effort is to help state agencies better understand how Wildlife Governance Principles based on public trust thinking and good governance norms can help them be more effective and enhance their relevance."
Although participating in the live webinars or viewing the recorded versions are a prerequisite for attending the workshop, Smith pointed out that agencies will benefit from information in the webinars, even if they can’t send staff to the workshop. “Our overall goal with this effort is to help state agencies better understand how Wildlife Governance Principles based on public trust thinking and good governance norms can help them be more effective and enhance their relevance. That is critical to the success of each agency’s mission as well as the collective effort to broaden conservation funding.”