Closing Plenary: How Far We Have Come and Where We Must Go

Passing of the Gavel

This morning’s plenary session began with now past president John McDonald handing over the presidential gavel to incoming president Darren Miller.

“I never imagined joining TWS as an undergraduate would lead to today,” Miller said.

Miller is excited for the joint conference next year with the American Fisheries Society and TWS in Reno. The theme of the conference will be: Communicating a Conservation Message.

“I want to use the conference to encourage collaboration before, during and after the conference,” Miller said. “Please take some time to reach out to your fellow fisheries colleagues. Start the conversation.”


The “Burning River” legacy: 50 years of remarkable changes in wildlife management
Richard A. Dolbeer, Science Adviser, USDA APHIS Wildlife Services

The first speaker, Richard Dolbeer, Science Adviser with USDA Wildlife Services, is kicking off the final plenary.

“My talk is all about that balance between capitalism and the free market system that’s so important to us, and the regulations needed to protect our environment,” Dolbeer said. “It’s all about balance.”

Rachel Carson’s book “Silent Spring” helped Dobleer make the decision to switch from studying medicine to getting a degree in wildlife ecology.

In 1969, the Cuyahoga river in Cleveland caught on fire. This was one of the important moments that helped the world become more aware of wildlife ecology, he said.

As wildlife populations increased, they began adapting to humans, Dobleer said. Species like white-tailed deer and Canada geese have even caused airplane crashes and other issues.

“Many jobs have been created in the wildlife profession because of the regulations put into place,” he said.

But there are still many problems with the environment. Every grassland bird species is declining precipitously, Dobleer said. Why? Doubler said the reason is change in agricultural crops and cultural practice and changes in pesticide types and application methods.

“The world at large needs wise stewardship of its natural resources now more than ever,” Dobleer said. “America needs to lead by example as we did 50 years ago when the Cuyahoga river caught on fire.”


Six Degrees of Separation? Looking North at Wildlife Management in Canada
Dr. Evelyn Merrill , Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta

Evelyn Merrill discusses her “Oh no” moments, where she realized she really didn’t understand how everything works in Canada.

The passenger pigeon was extinct in Canada before it went extinct in the U.S., Merrill said. We went through that same phase of trying to overcome the exploitation. But, she said, they skipped the area of protectionism and went straight to the era of sustainable use.

“Canada has really stepped up on the biodiversity front,” she said.

“When you look at the U.S. and you look at Canada, the U.S. has incredible federal lands across the country in terms of western states and they are integrated into those western states,” Merrill said, resulting in agencies such as the USFS, BLM, USFWS and NPS.

It’s not quite distributed the same way in Canada, she said, because the provinces have most of the jurisdiction.

“In Canada, species consideration does come first,” Merrill said.

But then it goes through indigenous people all the way until recreational use before making decisions.

“I think I’ve told you where we have come from, but where we are going we are now taking stock of what’s going on out there,” she said. “We do not deny climate change. It would be impossible for us to do that. It’s not just wildlife species like the polar bear and caribou. It is our own peoples that we hear the most: the loudest voices on climate change. Creative funding is going to be a big challenge for us.”

“Our partnerships, because of our consensus nature, are going to be critical,” she said.


The Buck Don’t Stop Here: Conservation Challenges of the “Global” Generation
Krysten M. Zummo-Strong, Farm Bill Wildlife Biologist, Pheasants Forever, Inc.

What are our conservation challenges going to be? Krysten Zummo-Strong will address the loss of connection to resource, balancing human and conservation needs and communications. Zummo-Strong noticed this disconnect firsthand when her urban peers in college saw ducks on campus. “Ducks can fly!?” they exclaimed.

“The trick is to start young,” she said, in order to impart passion on future generations.

We are now in the third age of conservation, Zummo-Strong said.

“We are the global generation,” she said.

With the capability of reaching large audiences with ease, sharing science should be easy, she said. But yet, there are challenges.

“Scientists are becoming accused of being biased while ‘alternative facts’ are accepted,” she said.

“We need to show up in places where people will notice our presence and think ‘what the heck are they doing here?'” she said.

“We might have to learn how to pick our battles and possibly let things go,” she said. “If we’re going to be taken seriously we’re going to have to show we share the layperson’s everyday concern and we can prioritize conservation tasks to find a balance for all.”

“We need to be careful and make sure we’re reaching the people we need to reach,” Zummo-Strong said.

This means using social media and other methods of communications to reach other people, not just scientists. This also means not only publishing peer-reviewed articles, but “translating their research into easy-to-read popular articles.”

“My challenge to you is simple,” she said. “In your everyday conversations, just pay attention. What is the individual you’re speaking to going through? What are they thinking? What are they feeling?”


TWS CEO Ed Thompson thanks Steve Blatt from the U.S. Forest Service for their partnership with The Wildlife Society. This marks five years of partnership between the U.S. Forest Service and the Wildlife Society!! Thompson also recognized Frank Quamen from the Bureau of Land Management for their second year of participation in  TWS’ Partner Program.