North American Special Session on Broadening Public Engagement

North American Special Session on Broadening Public Engagement

What diverse values do our nation’s citizens hold regarding wildlife and nature? What benefits do people enjoy due to the existence and management of robust natural systems? How can we, as natural resources professionals and public servants, better connect with broader segments of the public through their values, and through the perceived and unperceived benefits they receive as products of our work? These questions—which lie at the heart of every discussion of the societal relevance of conservation—will be addressed at a special session scheduled for March 28th, from 10 am to noon at the North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference in Norfolk, Virginia. Titled, “The Chicken or the Egg: Broader Support or Broader Engagement?” this session will illuminate powerful implications for people’s sense of connection with the natural world and for the political and fiscal support available to deliver conservation in the future.

Electrofishing demonstration

There is growing consensus among fish and wildlife professionals that the “some-users-pay model” supporting many agencies, organizations, and conservation programs faces, at best, uncertain long-term sustainability. Hunting- and angling-based funding streams stagnate and dwindle while management challenges become more expensive, varied, and complex.

Yet participation in and revenues generated through outdoor recreation, as a whole, are at all-time highs. And increasingly influential coalitions of diverse user groups are uniting around shared interests in public lands and environmental stewardship. Emphasizing common values—shared by individuals and organizations who appreciate functioning ecosystems, fish and wildlife habitat, clean water, clean air, and public access—these coalitions illustrate that the dichotomy between so-called consumptive and non-consumptive users is an unnecessarily limiting idea.

This special session will tap into the experiences and expertise of agency, non-profit, and other thought leaders at the forefront of soliciting involvement, input, and support from broad and diverse segments of the public around widely varied conservation work. Through their insights, and with active audience participation, this session will explore several fundamental questions including these: 1) How can diverse public values, and diverse publics, be more proactively sought and honored in the management of public trust resources? 2) How can conservation leaders harness—and be an integral, engaged part of—relevant social trends to advance their conservation mission? 3) How can conservation professionals and partners identify pockets of opportunity for fostering impactful coalitions around shared values? 4) What progressive opportunities exist in a changing cultural landscape for traditional user groups to promote broader social relevance and a broader base of support for conservation while maintaining vital leadership roles?

Details about this and other special sessions during the North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference, as well as conference logistics and online registration, can be found in the Conference section of this website.

Photo Credit
USFWSMidwest, Flickr
January 16, 2018