TWS President Gary Potts and AFWA President Dave Chanda discuss the value of State Wildlife Action Plans in the latest issue of The Wildlife Professional.
Transforming Conservation Science and Planning
By Gary E. Potts
The Wildlife Society is proud to present this special issue of The Wildlife Professional focused on State Wildlife Action Plans (SWAPs). These plans have had a transformative effect on conservation science and planning across the nation. At the conclusion of the plans’ first 10 years, we’re pleased to highlight some of the successes states have achieved as well as some of the goals for the 2015 revisions to the plans.
Beyond recognizing the wildlife conservation achievements SWAPs have led to, this special issue is part of a strategic initiative for the Society to expand our partnerships with state wildlife agencies and other organizations and to seek new ways of enhancing our engagement with the conservation community. We are pleased to work with Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies President Dave Chanda and other state biologists to share the importance of SWAPs to conservation in the United States with TWS members.
The Society is engaged in a variety of efforts that involve partnering with the state agencies. One such effort was a workshop held in March at the 81st North American Conference in Pittsburgh on strengthening the linkages between natural resources science and management. Jointly organized by TWS, the American Fisheries Society, AFWA, the U.S. Geological Survey Cooperative Research Units, and the Wildlife Management Institute, the workshop included three state directors, two U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service executives, three university leaders, and directors from both professional societies and the USGS CRU. At the conference, leaders from TWS, AFS, USGS CRU, and USFWS also signed a memorandum of understanding that provides a framework for further collaboration on issues of mutual concern. Going forward, TWS hopes and expects to engage in similar efforts with other agencies and AFWA.
Other partnering efforts include our upcoming TWS Annual Conference to be held in October in Raleigh, N.C., which will focus on the theme of “expanding the partnership.” For the first time, the conference will host multiple plenary sessions with state agency and NGO participation in each session. The opening plenary will highlight the value of partnerships in wildlife conservation, followed by plenaries on the second and third days covering invasive species management and sustainable conservation, respectively (see page 52). The plenaries and follow-up symposia are all designed to promote science-based resource management through collaboration with states and other conservation organizations.
Finally, we are working with the publisher of TWS’ two premier wildlife journals to find new and innovative ways to make our journals accessible to a much larger readership, thereby making them more useful to the broader conservation community. One such arrangement was offered last year to state agencies, giving them the opportunity to make articles published in the Journal of Wildlife Management and the Wildlife Society Bulletin available to all biologists in a state for a single, one-time fee. Other options are currently being negotiated that promise even greater access.
In closing, we want to thank the authors, many of whom are TWS members, who contributed to this special issue. We are committed to working with AFWA’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Sustaining America’s Diverse Fish & Wildlife to implement its recommendations for increased funding of SWAPs.
We believe that TWS can play an important role in communications and messaging on behalf of state agencies in these and other efforts, and we look forward to the opportunity to do so in the future.
Gary E. Potts, CWB®, TWS Fellow, is president of The Wildlife Society and project manager of the Statewide Public Lands Wildlife Habitat Development Project with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
A Decade of Achievements
Protecting and Restoring America’s Wildlife and Habitats
By Dave Chanda
Ten years have passed since state and territorial fish and wildlife agencies completed their first State Wildlife Action Plans (SWAPs). The impact of this conservation milestone is clearly evident today.
As a wildlife professional for nearly 40 years and the director of New Jersey Fish and Wildlife for 11 of those years, I have seen first-hand what a difference these plans have made in terms of the scope of conservation effectiveness, the depth of partnerships and the breadth of organizational transformation within my own agency.
I am very proud of my state’s plan. With funding from the State and Tribal Wildlife Grant (SWG) Program, our staff — in cooperation with other partners — has developed a Habitat Connectivity Initiative that is creating a strategic plan for wildlife conservation. The initiative prioritizes land protection, guides habitat restoration and management, and provides recommendations to guide mitigation of road impacts on wildlife. Our plan also includes efforts to manage coastal nesting shorebirds. I have no doubt that the results of our work — combined with similar efforts by states along the Atlantic seaboard — have kept species such as the least tern (Sternula antillarum) from becoming a candidate for federal listing under the Endangered Species Act.
I am honored to have been a part of establishing a Regional Conservation Needs program. Created in 2007 through a coalition of the Northeast Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (NEAFWA), the District of Columbia, and the Northeast Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, partner members agreed to pool 4 percent of their SWG apportionments to fund projects for landscape-scale conservation initiatives that extend far beyond state borders. Each year NEAFWA commits roughly $500,000 to fund projects addressing regional priority species. With the assistance of the Wildlife Management Institute, we have been able to leverage another $500,000 annually from program applicants. This model program has resulted in many successful projects such as the “Regional Conservation Strategy for Northern Diamondback Terrapins” and “Conservation Status Assessment of Odonota” that have informed the revisions of member states’ 2016 plans in a way that improves their ability to keep common species common.
SWAPs have created an enduring legacy and have helped carry out the missions of state agencies. However, our attention must now turn to securing dedicated, sustainable funding that will accelerate the conservation impact of these plans and, in turn, promote healthy, prosperous landscapes and communities for future generations.
The National Blue Ribbon Panel on Sustaining America’s Diverse Fish & Wildlife was established to create a 21st century system of funding to manage species of greatest conservation need. The Panel — comprised of conservation, business, energy and recreational industry leaders — recently issued its final report (see page 14). Now is the time for all of us to get engaged to ensure the success of these initiatives.
The Wildlife Society has always been a devoted partner in the cause of broader funding, especially for the work of state and provincial fish and wildlife agencies. The special focus on SWAPs in this issue of The Wildlife Professional attests to that continuing commitment, and I am truly grateful for the Society’s support. I look ahead with renewed optimism to the future of conservation funding in the United States and look forward to working with TWS members to achieve our common goals.
Dave Chanda is president of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and director of the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife.