In 24 recommendations, the Conserving the Future vision lays out a big picture of conservation for the National Wildlife Refuge System and for all who seek to protect Americas wildlife at a time of tight budgets and growing population.
Since it began taking shape two years ago, the Conserving the Future vision has been a collaboration of public and private viewpoints. The Refuge System considered more than 10,000 comments and more than 240 bold ideas. More than 2,300 people joined the social network at AmericasWildlife.org to be part of the process. Their comments and that network are still available on the Web site, as is video from the July 2011 Conserving the Future conference.
The vision, which will guide the Refuge System for the next decade, has several key themes: the need for strategic, sciencebased landscape conservation; the need for effective public outreach and education to enhance environmental awareness; the need to assemble a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service workforce that more closely resembles the nations diversity; and the need to reach urban America as never before.
So, how does the Refuge System make the vision a reality? How does it ensure that most of the recommendations will be at least partly enacted in the next five years?
The answer is: through more planning, consulting with stakeholders and persistence.
It starts with the Executive Implementation Council, led by Refuge System Chief Jim Kurth and supported by top Refuge System management, including the refuge chiefs from each of the Services eight regions. The council was to complete a general implementation plan by January 20. That plan was to include a requirement for quarterly progress reports from the nine implementation teams responsible for translating broad goals into specifics.
Nine Teams Deadlines Vary
The implementation teams will develop policies and strategies needed to achieve the recommendations. The teams are: Strategic Growth; Planning; Urban Wildlife Refuge Initiative; Leadership Development Council; Scientific Excellence; Community Partnerships; Communications; Interpretation and Environmental Education; and Hunting, Fishing and Outdoor Recreation.
While deadlines vary somewhat, most teams need to complete their draft recommendations by June and their implementation strategies by April 2013. Each team consists of about a dozen Service employees and will be reaching out to other employees, Friends organizations, partners and subject matter experts.
The Urban Wildlife Refuge Initiative implementation team, for example, must bring its specific recommendations to the Executive Implementation Council by June and must by December complete its strategies for developing an urban presence in communities that may have no refuge land base.
The Strategic Growth implementation team must complete its growth blueprint by the end of fiscal year 2012. And the Planning implementation team must complete its assessment of comprehensive conservation plans and habitat management plans by July to identify best practices gleaned from the past 15 years of refuge planning.
Refuge Update will cover the progress of implementation. The newsletters Focus sections in 2012 will parallel the realms of various implementation teams. There will be plenty of news online, tooon the Refuge System Web site and AmericasWildlife.org.
Thousands of hard copies of the 93page Conserving the Future publication have been distributed to regional offices, field stations, government officials and partners. Even as the implementation teams work, Service employees and supporters are encouraged to read the publication and ask: Which vision goals reflect your personal values? What actions can you take to make these goals a reality?
One takehome message of Conserving the Future already is clear: A host of individual actions toward a common goal can produce extraordinary change.