Progress comes in waves.

For Conserving the Future, this is high tide.

Working to meet spring and summer deadlines for final products, Conserving the Future implementation teams are reviewing hundreds of comments as they finalize strategic plans on landscape conservation planning, national communications, community partnerships and other issues.

The Strategic Growth implementation team has completed a comprehensive assessment of the National Wildlife Refuge System’s land acquisitions. The assessment shows that more than five million acres could still be purchased within acquisition boundaries of existing wildlife refuges. By some estimates, such acquisitions could take 100 years to complete at current funding levels. Looking forward, the team suggests that Refuge System land protection goals should be directed at priority conservation targets, with positive impacts within and beyond refuge boundaries.

The team’s work has resulted in a draft strategic growth policy, now being considered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service director and his leadership team. The policy would sharpen the Refuge System’s focus so lands are added effectively and strategically.

Among other recent actions:

  • Conserving the Future has brought forth the first major rethinking of the Friends Mentoring program in the program’s 15–year history.

  • The Communications implementation team expects a revised version of the draft strategic plan will be available in April for more public comment.

  • The Urban Wildlife Refuge Initiative implementation team has received scores of Service proposals for creating an urban presence in 10 diverse communities that don’t now have a nearby wildlife refuge. “From a first reading of the proposals, we can see that people were innovative, they were thinking outside the box, striving to reach people who hadn’t been introduced to wildlife refuges early in their lives,” said team co–chair Marcia Pradines.

At the same time, planning for an “urban summit” workshop is in high gear. About 150 invitations are expected to be extended for the training at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, WV, Sept. 23–25. Those attending will include Service staff working in or near urban areas and those who want to build stronger programs to reach this segment of the nation. The workshop will be a chance to hear about the work of the urban team, which has, among other things, developed standards of excellence for wildlife refuges working in urban areas and researched ways to reach new audiences.

In recent weeks, dozens of names for the urban initiative were proposed on the America’s Wildlife Facebook page. Among them: Natural Neighbors, Habitat for Urbanity, and Wildscapes: National Wildlife Refuges of America’s Cities. Votes are being tallied now.

To keep abreast of Conserving the Future news, go to, where you can find quarterly progress reports and more information.