WMI President's Message

WMI President's Message

Admittedly, the idea of a monthly President’s Message for the Outdoor News Bulletin, like a vast number of things, was much easier to conceive than I’m finding it is to complete. The notion that this feature would be a simple and concise effort to emphasize and highlight relevant conservation information, invite thought and reflection on various conservation issues, and offer opportunities for engagement and professional development related to conservation actions seems straight forward enough. Bringing that vision to fruition, I’m finding, will be more challenging than simply conceiving the idea. Going forward, I may take some liberties and editorial license to wander and muse freely regarding relevant (hopefully) ongoings in the conservation arena. Please bear with me.

Snowy egret

Seems there is a never-ending daily flow of “news,” announcements, decisions, and discoveries in the conservation communications arena. Sorting through them with an eye for “share worthy” topics, seems trivial and perhaps too shallow to achieve the desired impact. Especially when many of those very topics spawn articles presented and written about elsewhere in the ONB. For example, the myriad of climate and biodiversity related articles are in and of themselves more than adequate to fill the entire ONB.

One issue that does deserve highlighting as well as additional thought and reflection, is wildlife governance – meaning the processes by which decisions regarding wildlife management are made and implemented. There exist increasingly louder voices and efforts to change wildlife management decision-making processes and outcomes in the United States. For example, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation recently reported that approximately 33% of states had some recent, ongoing, or pending effort to change the make-up of their wildlife commissions.

WMI staff have been front and center in discussions and publications related to wildlife governance, including development of Wildlife Governance Principals (WGPs) based on Public Trust Thinking (PTT) and good governance norms. Although there is a clear need for awareness and incorporation of WGPs in our wildlife governance today, I don’t dare attempt to use this limited space to delve into what that looks like or why it should or should not occur. As with most things, it is a far more complicated issue and there are likely as many different circumstances as there are states.

An important point for those calling for change to keep in mind is that state wildlife agencies have limited authority to address the impacts to the species or habitats over which they have jurisdiction. Urban sprawl, extractive industry, increasing demands for energy and food production associated with human population growth are major factors driving the biodiversity crisis. Simply changing the makeup of a commission will not likely have any effect on the nature of those impacts. In many ways, calling for changes in wildlife agency commission make-up based on a disagreement with a relatively narrow issue or specific commission decision is analogous to clamoring to rearrange the chairs on the Titanic. Refocusing well-intentioned energies on how to change course and narrow the gap between state wildlife agencies’ mandate and their ability to influence the fundamental causes of species’ declines would do much more to protect and enhance our fish and wildlife.

Topics like wildlife governance and public trust responsibilities are receiving greater coverage in both popular media channels as well as academic ones, legislative hearings, and courtrooms. There are ongoing panel discussions and debates on these subjects at regional and national meetings around the country. The upcoming North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference in Grand Rapids, MI (March 25-29) will be yet another opportunity to engage on these kinds of conservation challenges of the day. WMI is grateful for all our partners and ONB readers and we are looking forward to another opportunity to convene impactful conservation conversations with thought leaders in the North American conservation space and beyond at this year’s conference. I hope to see you there!

Photo Credit
Diana Robinson, Flickr
February 15, 2024