January 2018 Edition | Volume 72, Issue 1
Published since 1946
Reminder to Register for Final Public Trust Training Workshop
The last chance to apply for the upcoming training session on public trust and wildlife governance is fast approaching. The training, scheduled for April 3 – 5 at Blackwater Falls State Park in Davis, West Virginia, will deepen participants’ understanding of the public trust responsibilities of state wildlife agencies. There are only 20 openings in the April session, targeting northeast and southeast states. Additional information about the training and a link to the application is available from the Public Trust Practice website.
WMI Western Field Representative, Chris Smith, worked with colleagues from Cornell University, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, Michigan Division of Wildlife, and New York Department of Environmental Conservation to define Wildlife Governance Principles based on public trust thinking and good governance norms. These principles provide guidance to state fish and wildlife agencies struggling to broaden their programs and relevance to all citizens. With support from a 2016 Multi-State Conservation Grant, the team developed and pilot-tested an online survey that agencies can use to determine where their traits and practices align with the principles and where improvements can be made. Based on the results of the pilot project, a second Multi-State Conservation Grant in 2017 provided funding for the team to conduct regional workshops to train agency staff in how to apply and interpret results of the Agency Self-Assessment Tool.
The public trust and wildlife governance workshops prepare participants to use this Agency Self-Assessment Tool and facilitate discussions on modifying agency practices to improve performance. Two workshops, one for western states in Colorado and one for Midwest states in Missouri, were completed last year and participant feedback reaffirmed the value of this training. Participants in those sessions said the training would be useful in updating and implementing agency strategic plans, improving evidence-based decision-making, and enhancing public participation processes.
The final session is scheduled for April 3 – 5 at Blackwater Falls State Park in Davis West Virginia. Smith explained that the training session begins with lunch on April 3. The first afternoon is focused on getting participants oriented to the Wildlife Governance Principles through discussion of the pre-session reading assignments, the need for agencies to adapt to the changing operating environment, assessment of the current circumstances and challenges each state faces, the genesis of the principles, and the meaning of the principles to the participants. This background is fundamental to the rest of the training.
The morning of the second day focuses on how to assess an agency’s culture, capacity, and readiness to improve public trust practices. Participants discuss the role of agency culture in either promoting or inhibiting change and they take a readiness assessment survey to illustrate how this tool can be used within their agency to help a core planning team determine whether or not the agency is ready to move forward in the process or will need to lay some additional groundwork.
After lunch on the second day, instructors explain how the Agency Self-Assessment Tool was developed, how it illuminates areas where agency traits and practices are aligned with the principles and where improvement is possible. Participants complete the self-assessment tool so they understand the content and discuss what the output from the tool looks like. The tool allows participants to rate 67 agency practices, grouped under five broad themes, in terms of both how satisfied the survey participants are with the agency’s performance of each practice and how important they think each practice is in their agency’s current context. Participants receive and evaluate a “mock” report that is used in the workshop to illustrate results. Finally, participants spend some time talking about how to develop and implement strategies to improve alignment with the principles within their agency.
The morning of the third day is focused on how participants can take the tools and knowledge gained in the training back to their agency and apply it. Instructors cover the logistics of administering the Agency Self-Assessment Tool as well as how to plan and conduct a workshop within an agency to interpret and apply the results of the self-assessment. In addition to new knowledge, participants receive a Facilitator’s Guide developed to use when they get back to their agency.
Space is limited, but still available for this final workshop in April. See the Public Trust Practice website for more background and relevant reading materials.