Conservation Education Program celebrates 100th workshop

By TWS Government Affairs & Partnerships Team

Keith Norris, TWS Director of Government Affairs & Partnerships, and Jim Miller, TWS Past President and Aldo Leopold Award Winner, take Davia Palmeri (AFWA) and Robert Schoepe (Arizona) on a mentored pheasant hunt as part of the 100th Conservation Leaders for Tomorrow workshop at the Max McGraw Wildlife Foundation. Image courtesy of Keith Norris.

The premier Conservation Leaders for Tomorrow program (CLfT) celebrated its 100th workshop last month at the Max McGraw Wildlife Foundation in Dundee, Illinois. CLfT is an award-winning professional development program, recognized by The Wildlife Society in 2010 with TWS’ Conservation Education Award – Program Category for its efforts to provide wildlife students and professionals with a deeper understanding of the values, motivations, and conservation roles of hunters, anglers, and trappers.

Keith Norris, AWB®, director of government affairs and partnerships for The Wildlife Society, served among the pool of 11 CLfT instructors for the workshop. Norris participated in and led exercises regarding the application of science to policy decisions, challenges associated with principles of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, firearm handling, hunting ethics, and took participants on a mentored pheasant hunt.

CLfT was formed following a discussion at the 66th North American Wildlife & Natural Resources Conference that highlighted a lack of hunting background among new state agency hires. This lack of background and understanding was concerning  to many agency administrators, as a primary role of state agencies is communication with and management of consumptive users.

The first pilot workshop was launched by the Wildlife Management Institute and the Max McGraw Wildlife Foundation in 2005. CLfT now boasts a network of more than 160 instructors across the country. The program has produced more than 1,500 graduates and regularly runs 14 workshops per year with involvement from more than 35 state agencies and four federal agencies.

CLfT workshops typically include 14 to 20 participants, none of which have experience or background with hunting. Participants and instructors engage in a number of presentations, discussions, and experiential learning opportunities designed to produce a broad understanding of consumptive use motivations and values. Workshop topics include motivations and demographics of consumptive users; history of wildlife conservation and the North American Model; firearm handling and safety; social and contemporary management challenges associated with consumptive use; and the biological basis and impacts of consumptive uses. Participants at the 100th Workshop included agency biologists, researchers, lawyers, administrators, policy specialists, law enforcement agents, and legislative liaisons.