The 2017 Conservation Conference at the 41st annual NWTF Convention and Sport Show focused on the future of conservation. This year, the annual plenary session, titled “The Power of Partnerships”, honed in on the organizations partners in conservation and highlighted their efforts and what those partnerships mean for the federation’s Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt. initiative.
Becky Humphries, NWTF chief conservation and operations officer, welcomed a stacked lineup of speakers but not before she explained why partnerships mean so much to the organization and that “We would not be what we are without partnerships.” This is especially true when it comes to the Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt. initiative, which is an ambitious goal that seeks to conserve or enhance 4 million acres of habitat, recruit 1.5 million hunters and open access to an additional 500,000 acres for hunting.
Joel Pedersen, director of conservation programs, explained that while our “Strategic Vision remains focused on four main goals: maintaining robust populations of wild turkey, conserving healthy habitat, preserving hunting heritage and building an organization of the future, our efforts create more benefit for others,” and that is where partnerships come into play. Fellow nongovernmental agencies and state and federal agencies make it possible for more resources and more feet on the ground working towards conservation, not only right now but for the future.
The relationship between partners and NWTF offers mutual benefits. For example, Tony Tooke, USDA Forest Service regional forester, spoke of the importance of stewardship contracting, a process that allows the Forest Service and partners like the NWTF to use locally-generated timber sales for funding projects on national forests. This, in turn, aids habitat efforts of the NWTF. It also can be applied to the Save the Hunt side, as Jordan Burroughs, Michigan State University Department of Fisheries and Wildlife outreach specialist, demonstrated with a powerful testament on the groundwork the organization put forth toward protecting hunting heritage and recruiting new hunters through the mentored hunt program.
Ron Regan, Executive Director for the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, explained another key partnership. Regan discussed the essential role of public policy related to conservation, habitat, wildlife and hunting and how it is crucial to the initiative. Tom Martin, President and CEO of the American Forest Foundation, offered a concluding statement that conveyed strong sense of unification when he explained that although our specific goals may be different, we are all essentially “In the same ‘habitat’, on the same ‘hunt’.”
More speakers and prominent partners for habitat and hunt efforts include the Natural Resources Conservation Service, which spoke to conservation on private land, the Florida Forest Service, which covered joint efforts with state forestry agencies and the Wildlife Management Institute.
Partnerships are a vital tool for the NWTF, as they allow for growth each year in accomplishments, resources and on-the-ground work for conservation. “Growing the next generation of conservationists is something we can’t do alone,” Becky Humphries said.
The NWTF enjoyed taking the time in the session to showcase some of these partnerships and accomplishments while looking towards the bright future of conservation.
— Madalyn Crowley
To learn more about our Conservation Conference and other highlights from the 41st annual NWTF Convention and Sport Show, check out the May/June issue of Turkey Country magazine when it hits mailboxes this spring.