The Conservation in Action Summit, which concluded today, was an indisputable success for a host of reasons.
More than 250 people engaged in rich, collegial discussions formally and informally for 3½ days at the National Conservation Training Center. They were intent on identifying the most pressing needs facing the Refuge System and formulating shared priorities.
Participants brought enthusiasm, expertise, hundreds of years of collective experience, level heads and respect for one another. They were excited, engaged and fervent about the future.
They represented 38 states and the spectrum of interests. A range of Fish and Wildlife Service employees attended, from wage grade employees to regional directors. People from 23 Friends groups were there. Partners, state agencies and nonprofit conservation organizations were fully represented.
Director Steve Williams was with us for the whole Summit. Interior Secretary Norton opened the Summit with a keynote address. Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, Judge Craig Manson, delivered opening remarks. Other high level officials, including deputy directors Marshall Jones and Matt Hogan, made presentations and were part of the discussions. In short, it was clear that the Department and the Service are charged about our planning deliberations.
So, what was the outcome?
We have assembled a huge amount of information, ideas, opinions and recommendations. The closing survey of participants has given us a clear sense of which items people consider most important for the Refuge System for the next five to 15 years.
Now, the heavy lifting starts. Along with our partners, we will create products for various groups, including our Friends groups, ideas for CARE (Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement), and information for our employees and partners. The work we did this week will guide our 2006-07 budget formulations.
We have a unified focus that we can all support.
Is the work finished? Not yet. But we've taken an enormous step down a new path. You can get complete information speeches, video clips and photos from our Web site, http://refuges.fws.gov/ConservationSummit/Daily/, where you can read the daily newsletters produced at the Summit.
Talk to the people who attended to get a feel for the tone and texture of the Summit. Ask them any question you want. I know that those who attended will share information, even if you don't ask. The Refuge System thanks everyone for their time and their diligence. We want to recognize the Refuge System staff for organizing a complex, well-paced Summit.
At the Summit, we achieved a common sense of direction for the future of the National Wildlife Refuge System. In-depth information will be coming to you in the electronic and printed versions of Refuge Update.
This Summit has been the culmination of a hugely successful centennial celebration. We will marshal the energy and direction of the centennial and the Summit to strengthen the Refuge System for a second century of conservation. What we accomplished at the Conservation in Action Summit will echo through time.