8:00 AM - 8:30 AM Foundations for Fish and Wildlife Management in the 21st Century David W. Arnold, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Ancient Roman law, recorded in A.D. 529, recognized that certain aspects of nature were common to all mankind and therefore all people should have access. The rights of people to the bounties of nature have been recognized in the Magna Carta, established by the U.S. Supreme Court, and reflected in numerous local, state and federal laws. Recognizing a huge decrease in certain wildlife species and fearing a future loss of hunting opportunities, sportsmen, including such notable figures as Theodore Roosevelt, embraced a series of tenets which have become known as the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. Since neither the public trust doctrine nor the North American Model are firmly enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, relying on them solely as a legal basis for ensuring access to fish and wildlife may not be fruitful. While some states have attempted to protect public trust resources and access to them, courts are not always persuaded that such efforts have jurisdiction over federal navigable waterways. Private landowners can have significant impacts on public resources. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2011 Report, wildlife-watching in the U.S. has significant economic impacts at the local, state and national levels, as expenditures generated $142 billion in economic output, 1.4 million jobs and $21.1 billion in state, local and federal tax revenues. In spite of these positive economic impacts, plus those from hunting and fishing, conservation of wildlife is losing ground on many fronts. What can be done to reverse the negative trends and set the stage for successful fish and wildlife management in the 21st century?
8:30 AM - 10:00 AM Nature of Americans Dave Case, DJ Case & Associates Dave Case will share the results from an unprecedented national study of Americans’ relationship to nature…results that are prompting nature conservation, environmental education and outdoor recreation leaders to rethink how they work to connect people with nature. The core premise of the recommendations emerging from the study is that connection to nature is not a dispensable amenity but, rather, is essential to the health, economic prosperity, quality of life and social well-being of all Americans.
During the session, Dave will present results and engage participants in discussions regarding:
Overall survey results and implications;
How different audience segments (children, urbanites, minorities and others) vary in their views about nature and its role in their lives; and
Implications for designing, delivering and marketing wildlife viewing and nature tourism programs and activities.
“This study will be of great importance to us as we look for ways to best engage Americans of all backgrounds in nature, wildlife conservation and their public lands. It’s our job not only to help friends and families connect their passion for the outdoors with their great National Wildlife Refuge System heritage, but also to ensure that this unparalleled American legacy of public lands stewardship for the benefit of all continues long into the future.” Jim Kurth, Acting Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
“The vitality of our state’s efforts to conserve our wild things and wild places depends on the connection Texans have with the natural world around them. For us to be successful engaging our diverse and burgeoning communities, it is imperative that we understand how people from all ages, backgrounds, and geographies view nature and how they choose to experience the outdoors. The Nature of Americans study helps answer these fundamental questions, giving us much-needed insight about how best to tailor future outreach, programs, and services to meet people where they really are, not where we assume they are.” Carter Smith, Executive Director, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
“The results and recommendations of this unprecedented study chart a clear path towards happier, healthier lives. Parents and organizations must make outside activities a priority in their lives. Whether at a national park, wildlife refuge, state or neighborhood park, or in the backyard, Americans must connect to nature to fully develop socially and physically.” Steve Williams, President, Wildlife Management Institute
The Nature of Americans is led by DJ Case & Associates. It builds on the late Dr. Stephen R. Kellert’s research on the importance of contact with nature to human well-being. This unique public-private collaborative is sponsored by the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Disney Conservation Fund, Morrison Family Foundation, Wildlife Management Institute and Yale University. More information and reports are available at NatureofAmericans.org.
10:30 AM - 11:00 AM Developing the Outdoor Citizen: TPWD's Response to the Nature of Americans Study Johnnie Smith and Darcy Bontempo, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Learn about Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s response to the Nature of Americans report. In many ways, TPWD has struggled in the past with establishing relevancy to audiences for whom a comfort level with and affinity for the outdoors is not a part of their heritage or experience. This report shows that the “connection to nature is not a dispensable amenity but, rather, is essential to the quality of life, health, social well-being, prosperity, and productivity of all Americans.” Put a different way, the conservation of species, the protection and restoration of habitats, and the provision of healthy streams and clean air are closely linked to human flourishing. A thriving natural environment helps Americans live happier, healthier lives. It helps children develop socially, psychologically and physically. It creates places where Americans want to live, work, and flourish. You’ll go on an organizational journey with the presenters as they describe TPWD’s efforts to connect children and families with nature and create a willingness and desire to connect with nature in a new, meaningful and long-lasting way that restructures how we as a society live our lives.
12:30 PM - 2:00 PM Building a Diverse Staff and Volunteer Team: From NWR to Cities, Reflections on Success, Struggles and Ongoing Efforts Jennifer Owen-White, Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge; Marisa Oliva-Rodriguez, Edinburg Scenic Wetlands & World Birding Center; and Tiffany Kersten, McAllen Nature Center The directors of three nature sites in the Southwest will share stories and perspective on building their facilities from the ground up, engaging the local community in new and different ways, and building a staff that reflects the local community while mentoring them through the career ladder. Tiffany will highlight the grassroots movement that saw her site move from an abandoned park into a nature center, including engaging volunteers and ultimately hiring diverse staff filling creative and nontraditional wildlife viewing and nature tourism roles. Jennifer will discuss her journey as a manager of the first urban refuge in the Southwest where she has partnered with the local community to create innovative civic engagement programs and employment opportunities within her agency. Marisa will focus on her work within the World Birding Center family, from mentoring and training local naturalists, biologists and outdoor recreationalists to creating a more welcoming and friendly site for the residents of the Rio Grande Valley.
2:00 PM - 2:30 PM Creating a Hispanic Outreach Program in State Government Alix Pedraza, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources As the population demographics continue to change in South Carolina, state government agencies are going to have to be prepared to meet the needs of new diverse populations. This begins with introducing new populations to who we are and what we do, and updating programs to meet the needs of the Hispanic audience. The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) has successfully created a Hispanic Outreach Program, expanding opportunities for and participation in SCDNR programs. From license requirement education to bilingual events, SCDNR has begun to break down barriers of mistrust and introduce itself to the changing populations of South Carolina. Creating a Hispanic Outreach Program in State Government will highlight the initial steps taken to create the program, setting realistic expectations within your organization, current elements of the program, lessons learned and future growth.
3:00 PM - 4:30 PM Alliance for America's Fish and Wildlife Sean Saville, Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies This presentation, led by AFWA's campaign manager for the Alliance for America's Fish and Wildlife (formerly known as the Blue Ribbon Panel), will teach participants the advocacy, communications, outreach, marketing and legislative strategies being employed in this exciting campaign to secure sustainable funding for state wildlife conservation, education and recreation. Participants will learn about the campaign, how their organizations can play an important role, and how to speak clearly about the need for increased wildlife conservation and the innovative 21st century solution that this campaign is advocating for.
5:30 PM - 8:00 PM Know Thy Neighbor: A Story of Collaboration to Engage Diverse Audiences in the Rio Grande Valley Marisa Oliva-Rodriguez, Edinburg Scenic Wetlands & World Birding Center; Gisela Chapa, South Texas Refuge Complex – USFWS; and Javier de Leon, Estero Llano Grande State Park and World Birding Center Through collaboration, partnerships and multi-site efforts, nature centers, parks and sites in the Rio Grande Valley have been working together to increase opportunities in outdoor recreation and nature tourism for the largely Hispanic population. Learn about their efforts, successes and failures as they share insights about their community and the progress they have made over the last 15 years.
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 21 | Concurrent Sessions: Track 1
8:00 AM - 9:00 AM From Fiasco to Fantastic! How the Texas Butterfly Festival Turned Around Marianna Wright, National Butterfly Center Events, especially big ones, represent an enormous undertaking and investment of organizational resources; so, what makes all the front-end heavy lifting worthwhile? For 22 years, the Texas Butterfly Festival has taken place in Mission, Texas, and over the decades it has taken many forms. The festival has succeeded and it has failed, in various forms, yet, stakeholders remain committed to this four-day extravaganza where worlds collide. Here, we bring together the novice and the expert, the hobbyist and professional, the curious and committed in a tireless effort to expand our tribe of environmental evangelists. Over the years, we’ve learned a few things about what works and what doesn’t — and how to keep the crowd coming back for more. This presentation will include a brief overview of the festival in multiple manifestations, insight into some of what we’ve kept and ditched, our version of the Ten Commandments for Effective Event Organizers, and a look inside our tool kit to help you meet your goals through better communications, promotions and operations.
9:00 AM - 9:30 AM A Swan Success Story Carrie McClelland, Environment Yukon “A Celebration of Swans” has been running in Yukon, Canada since 1994. Though viewing thousands of swans as they rest and feed is a wonderful reason to celebrate, the real purpose of the festival is to educate Yukoners about the importance of early spring open water and the importance of reducing disturbance to migrating water birds. Every year this birding festival attracts approximately 4000 people — more than 10 percent of the territory’s total population. The festival is centered around Swan Haven Interpretive Centre, a 1,000-square-foot government building that sits on private property on the shores of Marsh Lake, approximately 40 kilometers from Whitehorse. With a population of 26,000, Whitehorse is the capital of Yukon and the largest city within 1,000 kilometers. The interpretive center and other public walks and talks focus on teaching the public why open water is so rare in Yukon in April and how it is critical for the health and survival of migrating water birds. This presentation will provide background information on the festival origins and how it has evolved to continuously attract participants from a small population base. It will address our constant effort to expand and engage new audiences, balancing public expectations with wildlife conservation efforts, and it will outline facility operations and partnerships. The presentation will emphasize the use of “A Celebration of Swans” as a wildlife management tool and how that has affected the community. If time permits, a discussion will follow regarding other examples and challenges of using education and not enforcement to effectively manage wildlife.
10:00 AM - 11:00 AM Flowing a New Path: The Journey in Rebranding Ourselves from Oldest Theme Park in Texas to Successful Nature Center Miranda Wait and Meagan Lobban, Meadows Center for Water and the Environment, Texas State University From swimming pigs and mermaids to environmental interpretation, the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment has undergone a variety of changes over the past couple of decades. In 1994 Texas State University purchased the theme park Aquarena Springs and has successfully made the transition into a nature and research center. Our mission today is to inspire research and leadership that ensures clean, abundant water for the environment and all humanity. We fulfill our mission by integrating across four pillars: research, education, stewardship and leadership. Our educational programs encourage lifelong learning about the environment and people’s relationship to the environment. Our center is located at Spring Lake in San Marcos, one of the largest artesian spring systems in the world. Our location is unique in that it is a living laboratory, home to eight threatened and endangered species that are found here and nowhere else in the world and one of the world’s largest turtle populations. It is also considered to be one of the oldest, most continuously inhabited places in North America, having found artifacts dating back to over 13,000 years ago. The Spring Lake educational programs offer a multitude of activities which help connect children and their families to nature, engage new stakeholders in water and environmental stewardship, and provide wildlife viewing and environmental interpretation opportunities for the general public. Through trial and error we have created a successful education program and are constantly striving to come up with new ideas for community programming. Our presentation will go over the different programming that we offer and talk about the unique opportunities that the Meadows Center has to offer for nature tourism, from glass-bottom boat tours, guided wetlands walks, hands-on learning activities and guided kayaking tours to unique scuba diving opportunities. We will do a hands-on activity that helps get kids and adults engaged in environmental education.
11:00 AM - 12:00 PM Developing a Safe Public Canoe-Kayak Trail Edward Lagace, Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge Water trails are recreational corridors and routes on rivers and lakes that provide a unique experience for paddlers of all ages and abilities. Designated trails should provide safe access points, be designed with a variety of lengths, offer a range of paddling difficulty, and be adequately signed so users feel confident that they will not become lost. Water trails can reconnect us to the history, heritage, geology and wildlife of an area and offer an escape to a solitude seldom found in today’s hectic world. They can also boost the local economy through tourism and rental dollars. Learn planning, developing and maintaining a nonmotorized water trail. Review literature and walk through the steps necessary to create a safety-first, family-friendly trip on your new trail. Explore lessons learned through the development of six water trails on the backwaters of the Mississippi River within the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge – Winona District (Refuge) over the past seven years. As a participant in this 90-minute session, bring materials (maps, photos, aerial photos, and so on) for your dream water trail, and by the end of the session, you will have the ability to get your water trail started.
1:00 PM - 1:30 PM Great Missouri Birding Trail: Experience and Progress of the Newest Birding Trail Sarah Kendrick, Missouri Department of Conservation The Great Missouri Birding Trail is the newest statewide birding trail. Learn more about how Missouri partnered with a nonprofit organization to build an online resource that introduces Missouri residents and visitors to the “best of the best” places to birdwatch across the state. State Ornithologist Sarah Kendrick will share Missouri’s approach to the trail’s development and launch, including successes, lessons learned and ideas to start your own trail. The Great Missouri Birding Trail also has future plans after its official launch in May 2017 to promote local hotel, food and fuel businesses to birders; progress will be shared and discussion is welcome.
1:30 PM - 2:30 PM Evaluating Birding and Wildlife Trail Sites: What do we want to be when we grow up? Whitney Gray, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission After nearly two decades, the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail (GFBWT) may be due for a tune-up, but we won't know unless we check it out. This presentation will show the steps we are taking to evaluate over 500 GFBWT sites across the state, and what we are doing with the results! The Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail (GFBWT) began in the late 1990s with 136 sites along the east coast of Florida from Jacksonville to Fort Pierce and inland to Ocala and Lakeland. Over the next several years, sites were added forming sections in the west, south and panhandle areas of the state. Currently there are 510 wildlife-viewing sites that are part of the GFBWT. The questions facing us now: How can we determine if those sites still fulfill the vision and mission of the GFBWT? What should be done if they don’t? Should we add new sites to the GFBWT? How should they be added? How many should be added? Due to the broad reach of GFBWT sites across the state, it would not be feasible for staff to evaluate all sites, so the use of trained volunteers will be explored during the pilot project. By using a systematic approach to site evaluation, we hope to prime the GFBWT for a stellar third decade!
3:00 PM - 4:00 PM Communicating With Birders, Bird Hunters and Other Bird Enthusiasts Holly Vaughn-Joswick, Michigan Department of Natural Resources In an age of constant information, how can we be sure our messages reach our intended audiences? How can we make these messages palatable to consumptive and nonconsumptive users of natural resources? The presentation will walk through several of the Michigan DNR’s bird-related communication strategies including Michigan’s Wetland Wonders, GEMS (Grouse Enhanced Management Sites), the MI Birds Facebook page, Pure Michigan Hunt and more! We’ll talk about what worked, what didn’t, and ideas for communication strategy planning. Participants will come away with ideas for creating vibrant and successful communication strategies for birders, bird hunters and other bird enthusiasts!
4:00 PM - 5:00 PM Florida’s 75th Anniversary of the Wildlife Management Area System Jerrie Lindsey, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) celebrated the 75th year of its wildlife management area system in 2017. Though one of the largest state systems of wildlife lands in the U.S., most Floridians are not aware of their role or importance in conserving the biodiversity of the state. This lack of awareness is a potential threat in a rapidly urbanizing state like Florida. We used the occasion of the anniversary to conduct a yearlong campaign that introduced Floridians to the WMAs, their value for fish and wildlife and recreation, and how FWC biologists are restoring and managing these expansive and beautiful lands. This was accomplished through special events, statewide contests, a range of programs and presentations, as well as supporting in/outreach communications efforts conducted by a broad-based team across the agency. Participants will learn about surmounting the challenges of sustaining and tracking the reach of an in-house communications effort over an entire year, how to use recreational activity challenges and contests to encourage exploration, and how to use citizen BioBlitzes and the iNaturalist program as a means of deepening discovery and developing citizen scientist volunteers.
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 21 | Concurrent Sessions: Track 2
8:00 AM - 9:00 AM The Delaware Bayshore Approach: Engaging Partners to Support Wildlife Viewing and Nature Tourism Anthony Gonzon, Delaware Division of Fish & Wildlife The Delaware Bayshore Initiative, a program managed by the Delaware Division of Fish & Wildlife, has three objectives: habitat conservation, protection and restoration; providing and enhancing outdoor wildlife-dependent recreation; and building stronger communities through improved access to natural resources and ecotourism. Accomplishing these objectives requires effective outreach and partnership development accompanied with the capacity to provide improved access and wildlife viewing opportunities that serve to foster public appreciation and support for wildlife and habitat conservation. Further, effective partnerships can generate support for funding opportunities to accomplish the initiative’s objectives leading to increased ecotourism and stronger economies in local communities. One example of finding a creative opportunity for public engagement, outreach and communication is the success of the Delaware Bayshore Byway. As part of our strategy to achieve the objectives of the Delaware Bayshore Initiative, we are working collaboratively with the Delaware Department of Transportation to provide improved access, wildlife viewing enhancements, interpretive signs and other wayfinding materials along the Delaware Bayshore Byway to attract and promote wildlife viewing and nature tourism. The Byway example and other examples of collaborative partnerships will provide insight into developing and fostering important partnerships to promote conservation, wildlife viewing and nature tourism; novel approaches to successfully obtaining funding; and building strong conservation and community support to provide access and facilities that support ecotourism and local economies.
9:00 AM - 9:30 AM There's No "I" in “Team” - But There Are Some in “Technical Assistance Group” Whitney Gray, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission A Technical Assistance Group can be a great asset to your efforts to encourage wildlife viewing. Gathering input from representatives of your major user groups and partners can help you make decisions that best serve the public. It's important, though, to make sure that you keep your TAG members engaged but not overworked, feeling involved and not like a rubber stamp for decisions you've already made. We set expectations from the beginning by naming the group appropriately as a Technical Assistance Group, different from a Steering Committee, advisory group, or other entity that might be perceived to have decision-making authority. We carefully consider what items to bring to the TAG, and at what stage in any decision-making process. This presentation will cover why and how those standards were set. Like any volunteer group, the 80/20 rule will apply to some degree. Care and feeding are necessary, and we’ve built that into work plans to make sure it doesn’t slip through the cracks. There will be time to share best practices and volunteer “cautionary tales” from the audience.
10:00 AM - 11:00 AM Digital Storytelling and Mobile Engagement Thomas Dunne, OnCell; and Ruben Reyna, National Park Service, Palo Alto Mobile technology is pervasive and resides in nearly everyone's pockets. A smartphone is the most indispensable tool for people as they navigate their world. It is vital that all outdoor destinations and tourism organizations seize that opportunity to meet visitors in “their” world and give them access to information through their devices. In this session, you'll learn how to merge storytelling and technology to meet organizational, educational and accessibility goals. Mobile app experiences for visitors can include audio, video, location-specific triggering through GPS or Bluetooth beacons, push notifications, and so much more. A mobile experience can be poignant or fun, homemade or highly produced. The same technologies are available to all, from the small and struggling to the large and well-funded, so it is essential that organizations of all sizes understand how a mobile strategy can be tailored to fit their needs. This session will help organizations learn how to leverage mobile technology to tell their stories, share their histories, and connect with visitors in new and exciting ways. Learn how to define a mobile strategy based on goals and visitor needs and how to grow that strategy over time. We’ll also demo some of the latest technologies, such as push notifications, location-aware beacons and hands-free audio touring.
11:00 AM - 12:00 PM Tourism GO! Using Augmented Reality Apps Effectively April Conkey and Marybeth Green, Texas A&M University–Kingsville Nearly 72 percent of all adults in the United States (and 86 percent of adults under the age of 30) own a smartphone and increasingly use smartphones as their primary means of communication and source of information, and they want to engage with their phones at events (Poushter, 2016). Finding ways to capitalize on technology is a challenge for wildlife viewing and nature tourism, but augmented reality apps offer a variety of opportunities. The Pokémon GO craze was utilized effectively by nature tourism professionals to entice Pokémon players to visit parks, museums and other sites while playing the game; however, once there, the players may not have interacted with or learned anything about the actual nature or wildlife at the site. Similarly, parks and museums have had augmented reality apps designed for them, often at great expense, but these often focus on eye-catching visuals with little learning occurring. This interactive presentation will introduce you to forms of augmented reality (AR) that can be used with camera-enabled smart-devices at your site, provide best practices for using AR with exhibits and tours, and help you brainstorm ideas for designing AR apps that will enhance learning at your site. In this presentation, we will describe AR and its use in tourism, present our research findings and best practices for using AR, allow participants to explore AR with iPads and books, and facilitate a brainstorming session for participants to plan an AR experience for their wildlife watching or nature tourism site.
1:00 PM - 2:30 PM BioBlitz, iNaturalist and Citizen Science – Oh My! Marsha May, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department; Adam Jones, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission; and Anne Glick, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission This panel presentation will introduce participants to Citizen Science programs in Texas, Florida and Nebraska. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) developed a strategy for monitoring Species of Concern (then Candidate Species) using citizen volunteers. That strategy evolved into Texas Nature Trackers (TNT), a citizen science monitoring effort designed to involve volunteers of all ages and interest levels in gathering scientific data on species of concern in Texas through experiential learning. All of TNT projects live in a fascinating online data platform, iNaturalist. iNaturalist is a place where you can easily record what you see either on your smartphone in the iNaturalist app or by taking photographs and uploading your observations into the iNaturalist webpage at www.inaturalist.org. Following a webinar about the Texas Nature Trackers program, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission took the baton and established the Florida Nature Trackers Program (FLNT). Currently FLNT is working to fill data gaps on our wildlife management areas as well as introduce Floridians to our management areas through BioBlitzes. BioBlitzes are under-utilized tools used to engage the public in citizen science projects which connect them to their environment while generating useful data for science and conservation. A BioBlitz is an intense period of biological surveying in an attempt to record all the living species within a designated area. Learn how Nebraska Game and Parks Commission has effectively set up BioBlitzes uses the data collected by the public.
3:00 PM - 4:00 PM Strengthening Communities of Nature Sites Through Nature Contest Experiences Leslie Kessner, Texas A&M Forest Service, and Tracy Stratman, City of Omaha Parks and Recreation Getting kids and families outdoors and interacting with their local natural resources is a goal of many organizations. A new study by The Nature of Americans collaborative offers recommendations to alleviate disconnection from nature. Two recommendations are “deepening local experiences in nature near home” and “assuring adults and children that time in nature can be (and even ought to be) social.” In this vein, a variety of challenges or contests help families experience and connect with their local nature areas and each other, whether outside their back door, across town or around the state. In this session, we will summarize four state programs that offer a package of experiences to help people get outside and spend time together as a family; explain how a Park Pursuit, Texas Nature Challenge or similar program can strengthen your community of nature sites; discuss how to get started with a program, including identifying potential partners to join or create a place-based or region-oriented program in your area; and focus on the Rio Grande Valley’s Family Summer Adventure Challenge to learn how this program has impacted their group of nature sites and area families.
4:00 PM - 5:00 PM Trail Cameras: Getting Kids Into the Outdoors Using Technology Luke Coccoli, Boone and Crockett Club, Montana The Boone and Crockett Club (B&C) purchased the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Ranch (TRMR) in 1987 to commemorate the club's centennial celebration. Founded by Teddy Roosevelt, B&C's TRMR is located west of Dupuyer, Montana, along the Rocky Mountain Front and is home to the Rasmuson Wildlife Conservation Center (RWCC). For over 25 years the RWCC and TRMR have served in educating thousands of individuals from across the globe in place-based conservation education. On the 6,000-acre working cattle ranch, wolves, grizzly and black bears, whitetail and mule deer, elk, moose, coyotes and mountain lions all roam free. Not all of this wildlife could be viewed on a regular basis, of course, until the ranch staff began deploying about a dozen trail cameras year-round. Not only are the pictures phenomenal but it opened a whole new world of possibilities to connect youth and adults alike with the outdoors! This presentation will allow the audience to see actual trail camera photos from the ranch and learn how to use technology to get kids into the outdoors! Topics covered will include selecting a camera, learning how to use a camera, how and where to deploy a camera, how to organize and store data (pictures), how to develop curriculum and social media content using this data and many other useful tips and tricks regarding the use of “camera traps.” Participants will be able to get hands on at least two different styles of trail cameras to learn the variety of functionality and ease of use as well as see a variety of photos from Montana and current projects the Boone and Crockett Club is developing using such technology. If someone you know cannot or will not get excited about wildlife and wild places, try these tactics using technology to get them into the outdoors!
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 22 | Concurrent Sessions: Track 1
8:00 AM - 9:30 AM Wildlife Photography Ranches...How and Why Sandy Hurwitz and Pliny Mier, La Lomita and Transition Wildlife Photography Ranches; and William Colson, Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute The development of very high quality digital cameras, lenses, photo processing hardware, internet publishing sites and photo printing options has created a rapidly expanding wildlife photography industry. Entire communities and regions have begun to promote and take advantage of this new phenomenon. Wildlife photography ranches, when properly developed and marketed, can provide wildlife photographers of all skill levels the ability to obtain significant numbers of quality images on a predictable basis. By the same token, private development of quality wildlife photography venues provides the opportunity to create high-paying non-exportable jobs for a new generation of young people in rural as well as urban areas. Engaging the general public in wildlife photography provides significant opportunity to enable our increasingly urban society to interact with, enjoy, understand and protect our valuable natural environments. In order to take advantage of and expand this new and exciting industry, it is critical to provide the public with quality venues that predictably provide a high quality experience. This overview presentation will teach the basics of developing and marketing quality wildlife photography ranches.
10:00 AM - 11:00 AM Improving the View by Design Denise Husband, Delaware Division of Fish & Wildlife This presentation will provide insight to user-friendly design techniques that can be utilized to increase public engagement in wildlife viewing and nature tourism. It will also highlight approaches that agencies and nongovernmental organizations can use to construct high-quality conservation-compatible wildlife viewing facilities with the least impact to habitat and other users. This is particularly critical in fish and wildlife areas where hunting and fishing can be in direct conflict with wildlife viewing activities and related uses. Additionally the Americans with Disabilities Act will be reviewed and discussed as it relates to these low-impact recreational pursuits. Through real-life examples, attendees will gain an understanding of the essential steps of the design process that are crucial for the enhancement of the user experience. From simple user conflicts to more complex issues requiring the resources of a design professional, the attendees will take away potential solutions and tools to create more effective and utilized wildlife viewing areas.
11:00 AM - 12:00 PM “Trail” Blazing Paths to Ecotourism and Environmental Education in Nature: Texas Tech Llano River Field Station Tom Arsuffi, Texas Tech University Llano River Field Station The Texas Tech University Llano River Field Station (LRFS), a multifaceted facility in Junction, Texas, was designated as a field station in 2003 and lies at the heart of the Texas Hill Country at the edge of the Edwards Plateau. Its 411 acres cradle the pristine, spring-fed South Llano River and sit adjacent to the South Llano River State Park. The goal of the TTU Llano River Field Station is to serve as a destination for scientific research, nature and ecotourism; ecosystem and water resource management; and education and training programs for K-12, undergraduate and graduate students, landowners and the public. In 2011, the TTU Llano River Field Station formed a partnership with the National Park Service’s Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program (RTCA) and multiple public and private stakeholder groups to develop the vision for a land and water trail system on the TTU-LRFS property that would highlight different habitats and ecosystems representing the Texas Hill Country. The new Llano River Discovery Point Trail integrates K-12 watershed education with research programs at LRFS, whereby students, teachers, parents and land managers are introduced to ecology, nature, watersheds and land stewardship. The trail is interpretative, highlighting different habitats and ecosystems representing the Texas Hill Country including plants, bird, wildlife, invasive and trust species in the context of best management practices and demonstration projects associated with our native plant garden, rainwater harvesting system, mesquite brush control demonstration area, wildlife guzzler with associated game camera, invasive species management projects and some future projects soon to come online (prescribed burn and plant restoration and succession, riparian improvement projects, instream fish habitat improvement structures).
1:00 PM - 2:30 PM Rural Tourism Collaboration and Training Miles Phillips and Frank Burris, Oregon State University Extension and Sea Grant Delve into a case study of the Travel Oregon Rural Tourism Studio process with specific examples from coastal communities. Learn how to engage and leverage the extension faculty in every U.S. county to help with nature tourism including a nature tour market price research project.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 22 | Concurrent Sessions: Track 2
8:00 AM - 9:30 AM Baby Steps to Nature: Connecting Children to Nature from Birth to Kindergarten Kyle OHaver, Texas Parks and Wildlife In wildlife viewing and nature tourism, we as professionals often focus on the 8 to 12-year-old demographic, but we are missing out on an extremely important untapped and overlooked segment of a child’s life: the preschool and toddler years. Preschool and toddler years are one of the most important times in developing speech, social interaction and other areas of development. This period is actually the time when positive or negative interactions with nature can lead to phobias and fears of nature-based activities and sometimes even to nature in general if we ignore opportunities for engagement or miss out on the chance to engage this younger crowd to our natural spaces. Instead of setting preschoolers up to a potential lifelong disconnect with nature, this session will give you tools on how to shape positive experiences from the start of someone’s life and how that can often have the greatest impact in how they develop into wildlife watchers, naturalists, and ultimately protectors of our natural environment. Programs aimed at engaging and guiding these young wildlife viewers will also often have the end result of creating entire families of nature tourists since the parents and teachers attending events with the preschoolers will also be engaged in the study of nature and wildlife viewing, thereby becoming nature tourists themselves. This program is based on the good and bad experiences of a nature-loving family where the father has a professional job tied to wildlife viewing, natural resource conservation and nature education. The information will be broken down into developmental periods, described by age (but based on development periods with motor skills and learning taken into account), to show that there are steps with engaging children to create positive and safe experiences. Activities and experiences for urban and rural settings that will help in developing a nature loving, inquisitive, adventurous child and future nature tourist will be explored. With me as the presenter you can be sure it will heavy on birding too.
10:00 AM - 11:00 AM How to Think Like a Marketing Wizard, and Work Some Marketing Magic! Janis Johnson, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Want to gain insight on how to run a marketing campaign with concrete examples that relate to wildlife viewing and nature tourism? Have you ever wondered what to include in a marketing plan and how to best execute one? Learn best practices to build awareness, participation, sales, contributions, repeat visits and more — for your projects, programs and organization. Gather tips on how to identify the benefits of your programs and communicate them clearly to a target audience, how to define and locate your highest-quality prospects, how to choose the right media for delivering your message, and how to use social media and paid online advertising on any size budget. We will also discuss the pros and cons of working with an ad agency, how to know if your marketing efforts are working, how to use your data to improve marketing results, and how to inspire internal collaboration and buy-in to get a marketing campaign launched. You will leave this session understanding key components of a marketing plan, successful strategies and key deliverables using real-world examples.
11:00 AM - 12:00 PM Sharing Our Conservation Story on a Shoestring Budget Heather Feeler, Missouri Department of Conservation We are bombarded with thousands of messages every single day. How do we make the conservation message resonate, or even be remembered, in a world of 24-hour news cycles and drama-filled celebrity banter? How do we successfully expand our reach with a constantly shrinking shoestring budget? While impactful storytelling is vital to reaching new conservationists, we must also think creatively on cost-effective communications channels we can use to reach new audiences. Technology provides a unique and useful tool for spreading our message. Participants will also have a chance to ask questions, as well as share any best practices from their organization on impactful storytelling on a shoestring budget, if time allows at the end.
1:00 PM - 2:30 PM Engaging the Public: Fish and Wildlife Conservation Techniques for the 21st Century David W. Arnold, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission State and federal agencies routinely engage the public on issues ranging from fishing and hunting regulations to protection of endangered species. Nonprofit conservation organizations frequently seek to galvanize public support for their causes. Polarization of the public has increased and recent experiences at meetings, marches and governmental decision-making meetings have alarmed many. Challenges to ensuring public involvement in planning and decision-making include getting people to participate, keeping the peace at gatherings of any type, identifying all stakeholders, and finding common ground for science and solutions. An adequate appreciation of the human dimension aspects of the topic being discussed is crucial. Government agencies want to have involvement but often struggle when the public chooses not to participate in the building of the proposed solutions to complex fish and wildlife conservation issues. Citizen advocacy groups are often frustrated when they attend government meetings and feel that the decisions have already been made and their participation does not count. Many citizens are unwilling to participate in public meetings even though they have strong emotions about conservation. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has developed a number of approaches to ensure that stakeholders and the public have the opportunity to be involved. This session will provide tips for how to identify stakeholders, engage the public, prepare for and manage meetings, and it will include a demonstration of an “open house” meeting suitable for high conflict topics.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 22 | Full Group Sessions
3:00 PM - 3:30 PM Overview of the 2016 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation Rob Southwick, Southwick Associates Join economist Rob Southwick for an overview of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s new “2016 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation.” Released every five years, this survey is the primary source of information regarding wildlife viewing trends, participants and economic impacts. The latest survey will be released at the end of 2017 and will contain substantial changes and differences compared to past surveys. At this presentation, learn more about the latest changes, results, trends and how to use the results to advance your agency’s efforts.
3:30 PM - 4:00 PM 2018 Academy Overview and Evaluation – Looking forward to 2020