Virtual 86th North American Conference Schedule and Special Session Details

Virtual 86th North American Conference Schedule and Special Session Details

The 86th North American Wildlife and Natural Resource Conference is moving forward in its virtual platform, and registration and the full conference schedule are now available. Staff and partners have worked hard to offer the same informative and timely content from presenters and the space to connect with attendees and partners from across the continent. The virtual conference will include the regular schedule and opportunities for engagement, including the WMI plenary session, four special sessions, workshop offerings, and networking opportunities.

Woman viewing laptop drinking coffee

Moving the in-person conference to an online format presents the unique opportunity to explore new tools for online collaboration and connection and make more content accessible. In addition to participating in the live events, all attendees will have access to recordings that can be viewed at any time. The North American will be utilizing Pathable as the platform for the virtual event; the conference website provides information about Pathable and how to best experience the conference using this platform.

Unlike the in-person meetings, the four special sessions for this conference will take place each morning from 8:00 - 10:00 am Central Time, Tuesday through Friday. Special session descriptions are below and listed in the order in which they will run during the conference.

Fish and Wildlife Conservation on Tribal Lands and Waters: Needs and Opportunities

Tuesday March 9, 8-10 am CST

This special session will lay a foundation for understanding fish and wildlife conservation on tribal lands in the United States. There are 574 federally recognized tribes with about 54 million acres of land in the Lower 48 states. Membership in tribes, many of which possess rights to hunt, fish, and harvest under treaties with the United States, is growing rapidly. If the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act becomes law, tribes will be eligible for nearly $100 million in new funding for fish and wildlife conservation. Clearly, tribal engagement in fish and wildlife conservation programs will grow significantly, and this means that state fish and wildlife agencies will have the opportunity to strengthen their partnerships with tribal authorities to address landscape-scale conservation challenges, including climate change. Tribes share concerns about the future of hunting, fishing, and trapping as traditional cultural activities, and in the context of recruitment, retention, and reactivation; both states and tribes can benefit from deeper collaboration. Finally, the concept of traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) is historically and culturally significant to tribal authorities, and enhancing state understanding of TEK may provide mutual benefits to fish and wildlife conservation on both tribal and non-tribal lands and waters. In this session, tribal and state representatives will address their experiences, helping participants to appreciate the opportunities for enhanced collaboration.

Current Approaches to SARS-CoV-2, COVID-19, and Wildlife Health

Wednesday March 10, 8-10 am CST

The outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 and its associated disease, COVID-19, began to impact our daily lives at the 85th North American (March 2020). Now, almost a year later, we continue to face the impacts of SARS-CoV-2 across the globe, including the development of wildlife zoonotic reservoirs, enhanced understanding of species susceptibility, possible human-wildlife interaction infection pathways in our natural environments, and ongoing resource management decisions and hardships in face of the global pandemic crisis. Already beleaguered by an onslaught of introduced and emerging wildlife pathogens when SARS-CoV-2 arrived in North America, natural resources at the time were facing significant biosecurity challenges for wildlife biologists, veterinarians, land managers, laboratory researchers, and policy makers. COVID-19, as a zoonotic disease, poses not only a high human-health risk but also potential risks for North American wildlife, thus presenting a novel and unwelcome challenge in wildlife epidemiology. This session will update us on the research and strategies implemented and in development to combat the pandemic in the natural resources and biological community.

Presenters will discuss specific species (mink, white-tailed deer, bats, and more) susceptibility, U.S. and North American strategies to face the virus, wildlife and human risk mitigation, biosecurity policy and approaches, and the latest science from the front. Speakers include representatives from USDA including the National Animal Disease Center, USFS, USGS including the National Wildlife Health Center, and the University of California Davis.

Climate Adaptation Action and Dynamic Learning

Thursday March 11, 8-10 am CST

Climate change impacts on natural and managed systems have been well documented over the last decade indicating an urgent need to act by implementing adaptation strategies and tactics to adapt to a changing climate across land ownerships. Over the past few years, federal and state agencies and conservation organizations have identified a variety of climate adaptation approaches using different tactics and scales. However, many practitioners have struggled with how best to incorporate climate change projections and what actions to undertake given limited budget and personnel resources and competing priorities. This session will offer an organizational systems approach to climate adaptation and will highlight several case studies by leading practitioners. Each case study will discuss innovative approaches, share lessons learned, and identify parameters for success in climate adaptation efforts. Session participants will be encouraged to engage with practitioners and one another on challenges across technical disciplines, agency jurisdictions, and land ownership to increase participants’ knowledge of strategies to implement climate change adaptation tactics in the right place, at the right time, and at the right scale. The time to put action on the ground is now.

Ecological and Community Benefits of Coastal Wetland and Aquatic Connectivity Restoration Projects: Lessons Learned

Friday March 12, 8-10 am CST

Wetlands and infrastructure along the Atlantic, Gulf, and Pacific coasts are vulnerable to the predicted impacts of a changing climate — including intense storms, rising seas, and increased precipitation. This session will examine restoration projects that have been undertaken to strengthen the resilience of wetlands so that people, habitats, and wildlife can better withstand and recover from the impacts associated with a changing climate. Projects that focus on restoring coastal marshes and shoreline, creating habitat connectivity, restoring aquatic connectivity via dam and culvert removals/replacements, establishment of living shorelines to control erosion and protect habitat and infrastructure, improve flood resilience, and protect areas from potential impacts of future storms will be the focus of this session. The intent is to provide practitioners with the lessons learned, best management approaches, and other insights for development and implementation of resilience projects that benefit both fish and wildlife resources and communities.

Photo Credit
David Stewart, Flickr
February 16, 2021