Volunteer Danny Williams from Operation Fresh
Start, a Madison nonprofit organization, helps
Service Director Dan Ashe tweet at a social media station. (USFWS)
Implementation of the National
Wildlife Refuge Systems
Conserving the Future vision is
on a fast track.
Individual charters have been written
for each of the three implementation
teams established by U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe
during his call to action, which closed
the Conserving the Future: Wildlife
Refuges and the Next Generation
conference July 14 in Madison, WI.
Those teams will focus on strategically
growing the Refuge System, fleshing
out details of an urban wildlife refuge
initiative and developing the next
generation of Refuge System leaders.
Ashe charged the latter teamthe
Leadership Development Councilto
build on the successful approach used
to implement the leadership goals of Fulfilling the Promise, the Refuge
Systems previous guiding vision.
Fast-track implementation was a
consequence of the passion for progress
evident during the four-day conference,
which drew about 1,100 participants.
Attendees and an online audience heard
from an array of speakers, including
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar;
oceanographer Sylvia Earle; renowned
chimpanzee scientist Jane Goodall via
taped message; and eco-entrepreneur
Majora Carter, who founded Sustainable
Perhaps no one summarized the
conferences conservation passion better
than historian and author Douglas
Brinkley, who said: "If I wasnt a
professor, I would want to be like you
because of the integrity of the Fish and
Wildlife Service. You undertake this as a
Brinkley cited the importance of refuge
Friends groups, urging them and
refuge staff members to cultivate local
journalists in the cause of conservation.
"Call them up. Feed them stories. Invite
them to photograph a sunset. Get your
news on the Internet," he said. Brinkley
recalled that CBS News anchor Walter
Cronkitewhom polls found to be the
most trusted man in America in the
1960-70sbecame a conservationist after
covering the first Earth Day.
The conference pulsated with excitement.
Scores of workshops, facilitated
discussions and lectures offered
participants opportunities to exchange
ideas, call for vision document refinements
and learn new ways to achieve
conservation goals. A vibrant news desk
produced stories, video interviews and
a noontime newscast beamed across the
country on www.AmericasWildlife.org.
Cutting-edge technology was everywhere,
from the iPad that Ashe used to sign the
Conserving the Future implementation
charter to the two large screens that
flashed Twitter feeds during the general
sessions. Hundreds of people who had
never blogged or tweeted used work
stations, staffed by youthful volunteers, to
try their hand at new social media.
Now the Work Begins
Overall implementation of the vision
will be the work of the Executive
Implementation Councilchaired by the
Refuge System chief and supported by
the Refuge System Leadership Team and
a full-time council coordinator.
Ashe mandated that a refined final vision
documentwhich contains 24 specific
recommendationsbe published by
National Wildlife Refuge Week in mid-
October. The charter he signed calls for
development of an overall implementation
strategy within 90 days of the documents
publication and for the vision to be largely
implemented within five years. The
executive council expects that strategy to
include six implementation teams beyond
the three established by Ashe.
In chartering the strategic growth team,
Ashe said: "We need a rapid, top-tobottom
review of current land acquisition
projects. We need clear priorities and
biological objectives in order to decide
how many new projects we can take on
and how to select them."
Calling the urban wildlife refuge
initiative "exciting and innovative," he
said, "There are many important wildlife
and habitat management challenges in
our vision for conserving the future. We
will not succeed in these endeavors
unless we have strong support from a
connected conservation constituency.
People must be a key component in our