Conserving the Future implementation teams took their evolving concepts to the Refuge System Leadership Team in late October as they eyed meeting deadlines in 2013, when strategies are to be finalized and programs are to begin taking root on wildlife refuges and across the country.

The Leadership Team includes the chief and deputy chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System as well as Headquarters division chiefs and the eight regional refuge chiefs.

The work of two implementation teams is directly relevant to better serving visitors at refuges.

The Hunting, Fishing and Outdoor Recreation implementation team is collecting examples of innovative ways that refuges and other conservation agencies across the country have attracted and engaged new recreation users. The case studies will determine how these opportunities were developed and implemented. They will be a great resource for Refuge System employees.

At the same time, the team is developing a pilot outdoor skills program, including new staff training and guidance on creating, maintaining and staffing outdoor skills centers, where refuges can show the finest ways they are working with states and other partners to teach new recreation skills to the uninitiated.

The Interpretation and Environmental Education implementation team is refining a revitalized Ambassadors Program, both to help increase awareness of the Refuge System and to develop ongoing training for staff, volunteers and partners in how to communicate enthusiastically, clearly and effectively. Training will be comprehensive, ranging from customer service and hospitality to interpretation and a train–the–trainer element.

The team also recognizes that Americans today are embracing “anytime, anywhere” methods of learning, even as millions are craving meaningful hands–on experiences. So, the team is exploring how to blend traditional approaches to environmental education with the need to incorporate mobile platforms. Among the team’s ideas are a more comprehensive menu of “citizen science” programs and tools to engage visitors and volunteers in conservation–related work. The team is also seeking new ways to offer unstructured nature exploration areas at refuges.

Working in partnership with the Aldo Leopold Foundation, the team plans to launch a new Land Ethic Leaders program for community and conservation officials to reflect on how they and their communities can build relationships to land and water. A series of two–day training sessions are expected to be piloted at selected refuges through early 2014.

Over the past year, Conserving the Future implementation coordinator Anna Harris has found that two themes run through the work of all nine implementation teams: partnerships and communications.

“We recognized in the Conserving the Future document that no single organization can elevate the status of conservation in Americans’ minds and their daily lives,” said Harris. “As strategies become realities, it’s become clear that we need not only cross–team approaches to blend the work of volunteers, Refuge Friends and Refuge System staff; we also need to work with state fish and wildlife agencies, conservation partners and a host of others across the country to achieve the ambitious goals of Conserving the Future.”

For more information about Conserving the Future implementation and to follow the progress of the teams, go to