Advancing Wildlife Governance Principles

Advancing Wildlife Governance Principles

The fourth and final pilot workshop exploring application of Wildlife Governance Principles (WGPs) to state fish and wildlife agencies was held in Ithaca, New York from September 28 to 30, 2016. Staff from the New York Department of Environmental Conservation?s Bureau of Wildlife (NY BOW) met with Dr. Dan Decker, Dr. Bill Siemer, and Meghan Baumer of Cornell University; Ann Forstchen from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission; and Dr. Pat Lederle of the Michigan Division of Wildlife to review results of an agency self-assessment comparing traits and practices of the NY BOW to traits and practices aligned with WGPs. This workshop, along with similar sessions held in Florida, Michigan, and Montana earlier this year was conducted under a 2016 Multi-State Conservation Grant (MSCG). At the recent Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA) meeting in Philadelphia, the state agency directors approved a 2017 MSCG to further training related to the WGPs based on results of these pilot workshops. The Wildlife Management Institute (WMI) participated in development of the WGPs and the workshops and believes application of these principles will improve agency performance and help achieve the recommendations of the AFWA Blue Ribbon Panel on Sustaining America?s Diverse Fish and Wildlife Resources.

image of workshop attendants in discussion, Credit: Ann Forstchen, FWC

The WGPs were developed by combining public trust thinking (the philosophy that underlies the legal Public Trust Doctrine) and good governance norms into a set of 10 aspirational statements that can be used to guide the practices and procedures that determine how decisions are made and implemented, and how responsibilities are exercised in wildlife conservation. The WGPs address strategic thinking and adaptability, use of evidence in decision-making, transparency and accountability, inclusiveness and diversity, and capacity for conservation. Under the 2016 MSCG, a team including Dr. Decker, Meghan Baumer, Ann Forstchen, Dr. Lederle, Michael Schiavone of the NY BOW, and WMI?s Western Field Representative Chris Smith developed an online survey administered by Cornell University that allows agency staff to assess agency traits, such as being pro-active versus reactive, and agency practices, such as seeking diverse kinds of information for decisions. When the assessment is complete, workshop participants use the results of the survey to identify performance areas where an agency aligns with the WGPs and areas where practices could be modified to improve alignment. To ground the results in practical issues, each workshop also analyzes a case study or ongoing issue for the agency.

In addition to developing the assessment tool and conducting the four pilot workshops, the team is putting together a webinar for wide distribution through the AFWA Management Assistance Team. The webinar will be available by the end of the year. Under the 2017 MSCG, the team will further application of the WGPs by conducting training available to each of the AFWA regions next year. The training will prepare state agency personnel to use the assessment tool and conduct their own workshops.

?Our goal is to set states up so they can use the wildlife governance principles on their own, rather than relying on the team that developed them. That way, application of the principles can spread faster and be tailored to each state?s individual needs.? - Chris Smith, WMI Western Field Representative

WMI President Steve Williams, who co-chairs the AFWA Blue Ribbon Panel Working Group on Agency Relevancy and Transformation, believes the WGPs can help advance the panel?s recommendations. ?Our working group is exploring the impact of societal changes on the relevancy of fish and wildlife conservation and ways programs and agencies can transform to serve broader American constituencies. The wildlife governance principles provide a blueprint for agency performance to ensure they are fulfilling their public trust duties consistent with society?s expectations for good governance. That should help with agency relevancy.?

For more information about the WGPs or upcoming training sessions, contact WMI?s Western Field Representative Chris Smith.

Photo Credit
Ann Forstchen, FWC
October 17, 2016