photo of a small bird on a tree branch
Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge CaliforniaDave Menke/USFWS

While the primary purpose of the Conserving the Future conference is to discuss, hone and begin implementing the National Wildlife Refuge System’s vision for the next decade, an important component of the gathering in Madison is to share information with and among budding conservationists.

After all, the full name of the event— and the process—is Conserving the Future: Wildlife Refuges and the Next Generation.

To that end, in addition to general sessions, the conference will include three distinct educational elements designed to foster communication across generations and across areas of expertise—lecture series, workshops and facilitated discussions.

Among the guest speakers in the lecture series are:

  • Aldo Leopold biographer Curt Meine
  • Author and historian Douglas Brinkley
  • California State University, Chico, professor Emilyn Sheffield
  • “The Promised Land” radio show host Majora Carter
  • Juan Martinez of the Children and Nature Network
  • Idaho professor and research scientist J. Michael Scott
  • Adventurer, mountaineer and anthropologist Jeff Salz
  • Nature photographer Ian Shive

Each lecturer will speak and take questions for one hour. All lecture series speeches are scheduled to be streamed online in real time at and then archived there.

There are more than 20 workshops on the agenda. Each will last roughly 75 minutes and will be an interactive “action studio” in which 100 or more participants are given tips and tools they can use in the field. Many workshops will involve a short group exercise or handson project designed to emphasize future implementation on refuges.

The workshop topics range from “Greening the Refuge System,” “Hiring the Next Generation” and “Marketing Your Refuge in the Digital Age” to “Refuges, Neighbors and Sea–Level Rise,” “Managing Marine Habitats and Coral Reefs” and “You Want to Burn What?” Most of the workshops are scheduled to be taped and archived— along with relevant PowerPoint presentations—online at www.

Dozens of facilitated discussions will be sprinkled throughout the conference. Typically, these discussions will last 45 minutes, involve 32 to 45 participants and conclude with a question–and–answer session. On the first day, they will focus on individual points in the Conserving the Future vision document; days two and three will focus on plans for the vision’s implementation.

“Together, the lectures, workshops and discussions will offer Fish and Wildlife Service employees and partners of all ages and from all corners of the country a chance to pick up nuggets of wisdom from one another,” said Rebekah Martin, the Conserving the Future process coordinator. “Because much of the material will be streamed live online and later archived, these breakout sessions will be a tremendous opportunity for people nationwide to be informed on a practical, hands–on level and to be inspired on a more personal level to a call to action to benefit refuges, wildlife and conservation across America.”

A complete schedule of conference lectures, workshops and discussions is available at