“No Hope for Conservation Born of Fear”

Recently, the United States has faced its most severe economic crisis since the 1930s. That’s been reflected in the Refuge System budget, down about $18 million this fiscal year as compared to our budget in FY10. The President’s proposed FY13 budget would restore some of that cut—funding us at $494.8 million.

Yet, even in the face of economic realities, the Refuge System has reasons to be optimistic. I am blown away by the fervor I see from refuge Friends organizations, which bring in new members each year, raise funds for special projects and help present enthralling programs. The growth of refuge volunteers and Friends groups over the past 30 years has been remarkable. If a job needs doing on a wildlife refuge, chances are good that a Friend is ready to help.

Now, we have to push ourselves to reach those who don’t know who we are or what we do. That may be the most important goal of the Conserving the Future implementation.

As detailed in the last issue of Friends Forward, the Conserving the Future Community Partnerships implementation team is moving forward with dispatch and real insight in developing and nurturing active and vibrant Friends groups.

I attended the Community Partnerships implementation team’s face–to–face meeting earlier this year. In fact, I attended each of the nine Conserving the Future implementation team meetings, and here’s what I found across the board: enthusiasm, creativity, stick–to–it–ness. Out of those meetings and further refinements came the work plans you can see online by mid–April at americaswildlife.org.

March 2 gave us another reason for optimism: the White House Conference on Conservation, which brought together about 700 community partners, farmers and ranchers, outdoor enthusiasts and private industry representatives. President Obama quoted from “The Farmer as a Conservationist,” a 1939 Aldo Leopold essay that I didn’t readily recall, but is well worth reading.

So let me leave you with a quote from the essay: “Our present skill in the care of mechanical engines did not arise from fear lest they fail to do their work. Rather was it born of curiosity and understanding. Prudence never kindled a fire in the human mind; ‘I have no hope for conservation born of fear’.”

“No hope for conservation born of fear.” Not a problem.

Those who assembled Conserving the Future brooked no fear of failure. Nor do the nine Conserving the Future implementation teams.

As the Refuge System works with Friends and others to implement our vision, we are making progress. Follow the news at Americanswildlife.org. Let us know what you think by emailing conservingthefuture@fws.gov.