Can Wildlife Management Stay Relevant? A Roadmap!

Photo credit Florida Fish and Wildlife

The importance of wildlife management staying relevant to key stakeholders has been discussed by state conservation agencies for decades. Even back in the 1930s, presentations at the North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference held presentations that referenced the importance of relevancy.

People’s interests, concerns and opinions about fish and wildlife (and our management of them) have changed over time. Decades of research reveals how society in North America is changing, and more recently, data is available on the impacts of those changes. Organization of Wildlife Planners (OWP) has written about and co-hosted multiple sessions at the North American conference on the transformation of state fish and wildlife agencies.

Now a roadmap to relevancy is being developed, which is designed to help wildlife agencies remain relevant and responsive to the communities they serve. Here’s what to know:

Photo credit Florida Fish and Wildlife

Blue Ribbon Panel

In 2014, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA) organized a Blue Ribbon Panel on Sustaining America’s Diverse Fish and Wildlife Resources. They wanted to address the crisis facing fish and wildlife conservation with a broader funding model that would result in more citizens contributing to conservation funding.

In March 2016, the Blue Ribbon Panel made two recommendations:

1) Seek $1.3 billion annually in dedicated funding for fish and wildlife conservation (the proposed Recovering America’s Wildlife Act)

2) Develop recommendations on how programs and agencies could engage and serve broader constituencies. This led to creating a roadmap to fish and wildlife relevance. This relevancy roadmap is designed to help fish and wildlife agencies voluntarily evaluate their current situation, and if desired, chart a path that allows them to become more relevant to the public they serve.

Turkey hunt scenarios taken at Quail Creek Plantation, Okeechobee, Florida; March 2018. FWC photo by Tim Donovan

Road Map to Relevancy

The Blue Ribbon Panel Relevancy Working Group was formed and led by the late Steve Kellert and Steve Williams in early 2016. The group met several times.

In August 2018, AFWA and Wildlife Management Institute (WMI) brought together select members of the working group, several state fish and wildlife agency directors and experts on fish and wildlife relevancy. The group identified 26 barriers that can constrain public conservation agencies from engaging broader constituencies, as well as a methodology for developing a roadmap to fish and wildlife relevancy.

In September 2018, AFWA passed a resolution supporting the assemblage of “a diverse team of individuals to develop a draft roadmap by March 2019 that would help member organizations share successful strategies and help identify and break down barriers to engaging and serving all constituents.”

Following is an update on progress made thus far on development of this roadmap to relevancy. (You can download a copy of the roadmap below.)

FWC Photo by Amanda Nalley

Five Diverse Strategy Teams with 60+ Experts

A coordinating team chaired by Tony Wasley (NV) and Steve Williams (WMI) was formed in October 2018 and developed a process map, which included five diverse strategy teams made up of over 60 experts from state, federal, tribal, provincial agencies and the private sector.

Liaisons from each fish and wildlife regional association were also identified, which included Bob Broscheid (CO), Paul Johansen (WV), Gordon Myers (NC), Sara Parker Pauley (MO), Eric Sutton (FL) and Travis Ripley (ALB).

The Roadmap Coordinating Team is staffed by Matt Dunfee (WMI), Ann Forstchen (FL), Elsa Haubold (USFWS), Mark Humpert (AFWA), Jennifer Newmark (NV), Chris Smith (WMI) and Jason Sumners (MO).

Strategy teams met approximately weekly from November 2018 to January 2019. They constructed nineteen modified results chains, which helped to refine barriers and identify strategies, intermediate results and short-term and long-term outcomes. The results chains may be modified slightly for consistency and clarity, as the teams develop tactics over the next few months.

The shown table features barriers and strategies developed by the five strategy teams. These were reviewed in March 2019 by the conservation agency directors, who provided their input and feedback.

Family camp and hunt; Marion County, Florida; January 2018. FWC photo by Tim Donovan

Next Steps for Roadmap

The strategy teams will continue through spring and summer to develop specific tactics and recommendations, which will assist agencies in implementing actions that improve engagement and serve broader constituencies.

A full report will be presented at the 2019 AFWA annual meeting in September for director review and discussion. Several agencies are expected to volunteer to pilot some recommendations. There will be an evaluative component to the implementation plans and lessons learned will be shared widely.

FWC Commission meeting in Lakeland, Florida; June 11-13, 2013

Roadmap Considerations

This work builds on the many successes of conservation agencies over the past century as they’ve adapted to changing social and ecological landscapes.

There is no “right or wrong way” to address the many modern challenges that agencies face. Each agency is in a unique socio-political environment. What might work well in Idaho, may not be appropriate in Montana, Florida or New Hampshire. Each agency has its unique culture, capacity and constraints to address the issues they face. But they can learn from each other and perhaps leverage resources as they work to improve their engagement with broader constituencies. 

The roadmap to relevancy — which you can download below — will serve as a living document to promote learning, share successes and challenges, and provide tools that may be useful to fish and wildlife agencies in addressing specific barriers to broader engagement. Final recommendations will be non-prescriptive and voluntary.

The coordinating team is building a platform to act as a clearinghouse of communication about the successes and challenges as agencies adopt and implement actions to better engage and serve broader constituencies.

If you have any questions about this work, please contact Ann Forstchen ( or any of the coordinating team members..

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