Today, Director Dan Ashe checks in from Madison, Wisconsin....
After more than a year of planning and anticipation, Conserving the Future: National Wildlife Refuges and the Next Generation is here.
When I got here yesterday, I was greeted with dark clouds and claps of thunder. Some might think this was an inauspicious beginning, but I thought it was perfect, an exciting start to our history-making event.
A lot has changed since the last time we did this. In 1999, Fulfulling the Promise became the National Wildlife Refuge System’s guiding vision.
Today, we face more – and more complex – conservation challenges. There’s the U.S. population – more urban, older and more diverse -- that has grown by 58 million in the past 20 years. There are increasing threats to fish, wildlife and habitats and the added challenge of a changing climate. Add to these the rapid changes in communication fostered by the web and social media.
That’s why we’re here. We’re here in Madison, Wisconsin, where Aldo Leopold, as a professor at the University of Wisconsin, formed the school’s wildlife management program and wrote the essays that would become A Sand County Almanac.
Our conference site, the ??Monona Terrace Community Conference Center?, is designated LEED silver by the U.S. Green Building Council. It’s a facility that purchases its electricity from renewable sources, mainly wind power. By holding the event here I’m proud to say we’ve been able to limit our carbon footprint.
So, today’s the day. Whether you’re in Madison or participating online, it’s the right time and the right place to form a new vision for our beloved National Wildlife Refuge System.
This is our charge, our shared responsibility.
Faced with this responsibility, we must be creative. We must inspire one another and work together.
Think partnerships. We know we’re on the right track if our goals require collaboration.
Think youth. We must engage our young people and help them lead the future of conservation in America.
This won’t be easy. Change never is.
Challenges aside, I’m excited for another day. Yesterday, after the rain finally stopped, the sun came out and it was a beautiful summer day. A great beginning to what promises to be a great week.
The challenges – and the opportunities – are here and now. It’s the right time, and we’re in the right place.
Give it your all.