88th North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference

North American conference to tackle timely issues

Talks will focus on the Endangered Species Act, the Recovering America's Wildlife Act, and more

This year’s North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference will provide a platform to discuss contemporary issues including the Endangered Species Act’s successes and challenges, next steps for Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, the North American Model of Conservation and more.

This will be the 88th North American Conference hosted by the Wildlife Management Institute as an annual forum to connect scientists, managers and other conservation leaders to focus on issues like policy, budget and multiregional conservation issues. It will take place March 19 through March 24 in St. Louis, Missouri.

“There’s an interesting history—TWS originally convened its annual business and technical sessions at the North American,” said Matt Dunfee, WMI’s Director of Special Programs and Chair of the North American. The Wildlife Society eventually broke away and created its own annual conference in 1994.

Dunfee, who has been actively involved in both organizations, has worked at the North American Wildlife and Natural Resource Conference since he was a college student getting his degree in fisheries and wildlife conservation at Colorado State University. As part of a program for perspective wildlifers involved in management, Dunfee was invited to work at the conference as WMI staff. He’d go from room to room and make sure there was enough chairs, check the audio and video systems and ensure the conference ran smoothly.

“That was the great unveiling for me as a young professional,” Dunfee said. “I had envisioned myself in snowshoes chasing wolverines. Then, I saw at this conference just how conservation advances in the world and the decisions are made. I always found interesting natural science problems delicious to study, but I think I will always prefer to influence what happens to the science when it goes up the chain.” He has chaired the North American since 2008.

This year’s conference, like past ones, will address current events. “Every year, this conference takes its direction and tone from the challenges and opportunities that exist in a given year,” he said.

One topic will be the 50th anniversary of the ESA, which will be covered through a plenary and then a two-hour session devoted to what we’ve learned, where we need to go and threats to the good work it has led to.

The Wildlife Management Institute has also been working with the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA) to host and synthesize a national discussion about the North American Model of Conservation. Organizers hope to dive into the critiques of the model by getting audience members to participate in the dialogue in a two-hour session.

Plenary speakers will also address the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, a major piece of legislation to fund wildlife conservation that failed to pass in the last congressional session. “We push speakers to be honest and not hyperbolic,” Dunfee said. “They’ll say what needs to be said in the way it needs to be said, consequences be darned.”

The Wildlife Management Institute will also welcome former Nevada Department of Wildlife Director Tony Wasley into his new position as WMI’s incoming director.

Each conference, Dunfee said, he hopes participants can make an impact on the ground.

“At too many conferences, we spend too much time promoting ourselves and the work that we been done,” he said. “We spend very little time on how we can reduce ourselves but elevate the resource. At this meeting, we turn away from advocating for ourselves or our missions and turn toward finding solutions through compromise.”

Header Image: The 88th North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference will be held March 19 through March 24 in St. Louis, Missouri. Credit: Wildlife Management Institute