Special Sessions Set for the 82nd North American

Special Sessions Set for the 82nd North American

The Steering Committee for the 2017 North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference has announced the event's line-up of four concurrent Special Sessions scheduled to follow the Plenary Session on Wednesday, March 8. Following are brief descriptions of the session topics drafted by Special Session co-chairs in coordination with the Program Committee.

The 82nd North American will be held March 6-10, 2017, at the Davenport Hotel in Spokane, Washington.

Making Relevance a Reality

Conservation is facing a crisis of relevance. Recent research has revealed that North Americans lack first-hand experience with nature, and current social and political discourse has failed to make the connection between conservation and human health, economic prosperity, and social justice. Although some polls indicate that North Americans "care" about conservation, their actions reflect either ignorance or apathy with respect to the impact of their lifestyle choices on the environment. State and federal governments have not adequately fulfilled their trustee responsibilities on behalf of the public for wildlife and habitat conservation to ensure these important components of our natural heritage are used sustainably and passed on to future generations. The implications of these factors for the conservation institution are clear ? if conservation is not relevant to society, the institution will become irrelevant.

Plenary session speakers at the 2016 North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference challenged the conservation institution to address the issue of relevance. The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies' Blue Ribbon Panel called for transformative change in how the missions of state fish and wildlife agencies stay socially relevant. The need for action is clear; what remains murky is how to make relevance a reality.

This special session will move the discussion from an agreement that action is needed to an understanding of what action is needed.

Conservation in the Face of a Changing Energy Development Landscape

Energy development in the United States continues to evolve as our nation's energy policies are being shaped by a variety of economic, political, and societal pressures. Energy sources are becoming more and more diversified, but the impacts of new energy generation technologies on wildlife and the environment are not well understood. Although the United States has benefited from meeting more of its energy demand from within its boundaries, wildlife and natural resource management agencies are seeking best practices for conservation as energy developers deploy their technologies.

This special session will provide insights on how management agencies can work with energy developers, utilities, and other state regulators and the federal government to help inform energy development. 

Presentations will include an overview of new technologies and the environmental uncertainties associated with them; case studies of agency/developer engagement; science-based tools to guide conservation planning and management; perspectives from industry on partnering and engagement; and suggested best practices. 

Insights to Inform Marketing Efforts within State Fish and Wildlife Agencies

In recent years, many within the fish and wildlife management community have questioned the validity of marketing as a legitimate tool in the resource management toolbox. Yet, as the conservation community is battling the issue of its relevance to the American public, it has become abundantly clear that our fish and wildlife agencies' management methods, as well as our nation's natural resources, are misunderstood and undervalued by the general public. The conservation community conserves and manages natural resources in public trust for their constituents. Now, more than ever, those constituents need to understand the results of agency conservation work, its value to them, and how they can access more of it. A critical component to achieving this awareness is the ability to effectively communicate and relate with our customers. What agencies say and how they say it is incredibly important. The language and channels used to communicate the right messages can influence our customers' attitudes and behaviors, which in turn will influence natural resources policy and management decisions.

If the conservation community does not take advantage of current trends in technology, marketing strategies, and best practices to reach target audiences, natural resources and the agencies who manage them will never achieve relevancy.

This session will explore practical marketing strategies for natural resource managers in today's digital communication reality, and present successes and failures of past marketing efforts.

Wildlife Successes in Optimum Funding Scenarios - Exxon Valdez and Deepwater Horizon Restoration

Wildlife managers routinely possess the know-how to enhance ecological conditions, but they all too often face financial constraints to implementing those best practices.  Significant belt-tightening has become the norm for wildlife agencies and conservation non-profits in recent years, especially since the 2008 recession and the era of partisan gridlock in Washington. Declining budgets have made proactive conservation measures increasingly difficult, irrespective of recent, impressive advances in the science of wildlife management. To make matters worse, environmental stressors due to human population growth, habitat degradation, and climate change are steadily stacking the deck against optimum results and foreclosing otherwise obtainable opportunities at alarming rates.

There are, however, notable exceptions to the negative fiscal trends impacting wildlife management in which a veritable gusher of funding arises to empower wildlife management within certain regional biomes of extraordinary importance. The $1 billion criminal and civil settlements arising from the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill is one such example. Another is the combined $28 billion in Deepwater Horizon fines from BP and responsible parties in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico spill that demonstrates a current case of wildlife managers, cooperating NGOs, and stakeholders being unbound by normal monetary constraints. While both of the above examples derive from tragedies no one wishes to see repeated, the lessons learned in their aftermath offer vivid showcases of modern wildlife management at its best.

This session will feature a retrospective look into what worked in Alaska in the aftermath of the Exxon Valdez and a preview of even larger-scale Gulf of Mexico ecosystem restoration opportunities that are now moving into high gear.

August 15, 2016