North American Special Sessions Take Place in Hybrid Virtual/In-Person Format on March 16 & 17

North American Special Sessions Take Place in Hybrid Virtual/In-Person Format on March 16 & 17

The 87th North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference will be held in a hybrid format, with virtual options Wednesday, March 9 through Friday, March 11, and in-person with hybrid options Monday, March 14 through Friday, March 18 at the Davenport Grand Hotel in Spokane Washington. The Conference plenary session will be held from 8 to 9:30 am PT on Tuesday March 15. Special Sessions 1 and 2 will be held from 8 to 10 am PT on Wednesday March 16, while Special Sessions 3 and 4 will be held from 8 to 10 am PT on Thursday March 17. The full conference schedule is available online as is registration for both the in person and the virtual conference.

Special Session 1
Inspired by the North American Model: Wildlife Conservation at a Crossroads

Lane Kisonak, Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies
Gordon R. Batcheller, Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies

The North American Model was first articulated by Dr. Valerius Geist and attained prominence with a decade of institutional discourse described in detail in several fora, most notably in a 2012 Wildlife Society Technical (TWS) Review, and the 2019 book, The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, edited by Shane Mahoney and Valerius Geist. The conceptual framework was quickly adopted, approved, endorsed, and lauded by a wide range of conservation entities, including federal, provincial, and state wildlife agencies, and non-governmental organizations. As this took place, the original seven “pillars” of the Model were frequently cited or interpreted as foundational, and to some degree, immutable. This was never the intent, but this initial interpretation seeded a decade-long trend of misinterpretation, misuse, and to some degree, intellectual stagnation about what the Model means and how the North American conservation institution should utilize it.

The 2022 North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference (NAWNRC) marks a ten-year milestone articulated in the 2012 TWS Technical Review, charging “…key administrators in wildlife conservation and management…every 10 years to revisit the key challenges facing wildlife conservation in North America, assess the Model’s principles and their application and adequacy, and develop joint strategies for consistent continental conservation.” Thus, it is unusually timely to have this conversation at the NAWNRC, both to reset the narrative focused on the historical construct envisioned with the articulation of the Model, and more importantly to motivate conservationists in all sectors to address our contemporary and future ecosystem emergency.

This special session will reset the narrative. It will explain the origins of the Model and its purpose, and will serve as a starting point for a robust, year-long dialogue, yielding constructive conservation outcomes. There is no effort to revise the seven Pillars since history is history. But we have an opportunity to bring diverse conservation partners to a time and place where the Model can be acknowledged for what it is, what it is not, and what vacancies exist. This will serve as a basis for the dialogue to address existing and anticipated conservation challenges.

Special Session 2
A Journey to the Future of Conservation: Taking the Next Steps

Tony Wasley, Nevada Department of Wildlife
Julie Thorstenson, Native American Fish and Wildlife Society
Danielle Ross-Winslow, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Jen Newmark, Nevada Department of Wildlife
Elsa Haubold, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Deb Rocque, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Fish and wildlife agencies recognize the need to adapt to a changing society to keep conservation relevant. In September 2019, the Fish and Wildlife Relevancy Roadmap was unanimously approved through resolution by State fish and wildlife agency directors. An Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA) President’s Task force produced a resolution supporting landscape conservation passed in 2018. A subsequent President’s Task force produced a report in September 2020 on Shared Science and Landscape Conservation that included three recommendations on science prioritization, strengthening regional science-based conservation partnerships, and using State Wildlife Action Plans as a framework for regional coordination and collaboration. An overarching vision and challenge is weaving frequently disparate efforts together to create a connected network of lands, waters, and people.

The calls to action are loud and clear yet the path often is not. In January 2022, the Future of Conservation Forum took an important step forward in developing a shared vision of the future and strategies to achieve that vision. Participants included federal, provincial and state governments, indigenous groups, non-governmental organizations, philanthropies, businesses, landowners, and others. Forum outcomes are specific and actionable recommendations for implementation that address key issues of science collaboration, private lands, biodiversity, climate change, urban landscapes, coordination across governments, and integrating science and traditional ecological/indigenous knowledges in conservation planning. This session will 1) engage participants in ground truthing the recommended actions and key takeaways from the forum, and 2) provide practical guidance for agencies and organizations on how to implement the recommended actions to begin moving us toward a conservation future that is more inclusive, relevant, and efficient and that foster healthy wildlife populations and vibrant communities.

Special Session 3
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Relevancy: Tips from Trailblazers

Ann Forstchen, Wildlife Management Institute
Chris Smith, Wildlife Management Institute

Much has happened since the release of the Relevancy Roadmap in 2019, not the least of which was a global pandemic that continues to impact America’s interaction with nature and the agencies who are charged with conserving it. Despite the unforeseen challenges of engaging and serving broader constituencies during the past two years, a surprising amount of relevancy-enhancing work has been undertaken by many state fish and wildlife management agencies.

This new work reflects the core reason the Roadmap was written the way it was; a comprehensive collection of strategies in need of testing through application to document their utility/effectiveness (or not) at engaging broader constituencies. Each of the approaches listed in the Roadmap needs real-world application by bold agencies that recognize the need to evolve the relationship between public trust owners and public trust managers. Without such testing, agencies will be hard-pressed to know where to start, what is likely to work, and what they should focus on first.

This session will highlight a selection of those organizations that have taken it upon themselves to put parts of the Roadmap to work. Speakers will represent several different approaches to relevancy; agency-wide change from within, partnership with external experts, small-scale pilot programs, and even the creation of new agency departments to address relevancy work. Attendees will get an insider’s view from these trailblazers, learn lessons from their successes and failures, and hopefully be inspired to begin applying the Roadmap in their own organizations.

Special Session 4
Unintended Consequences: Accounting for the Hidden Costs of North America’s Wildlife Management Ethos

Lydia Parker, Hunters of Color
Gabriela Zaldumbide, Hunters of Color

The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation achieved unprecedented success in correcting the environmental exploitation that arrived with European colonization. Yet, the corrective measures of the Model that changed the trajectory of natural resource extraction were incomplete, imperfect, and in some instances, counterproductive. Consequences of conservation land acquisition on Black landowners, un-equitable use and management power of public trust resources, and discounting or complete dismissal of Indigenous authority and values are but a few of the challenges left in the shadows of last century’s conservation movements.

This session will present research that illuminates and defines these challenges while engaging experts who can present solutions to how the next century of North American conservation can avoid the pitfalls of the previous one.

February 15, 2022