Dear TWS members,
Over the past few months you’ve likely seen or heard the unifying phrase, “We are The Wildlife Society” stated proudly. We’re writing to you today with important information that reinforces that message.
Since this year’s Annual Conference will be held in Raleigh, we have been closely monitoring the developments in North Carolina in regards to House Bill 2 and its potential impact on our members. TWS Leadership has been engaged in discussions with members of the North Carolina Chapter and our contacts within the Raleigh tourism bureau, the convention center and our hotel facilities on behalf of all of our members to ensure that everyone will experience a welcoming, safe and respectful environment that aligns with our organization’s commitment to diversity in the wildlife profession.
The diversity of our membership is one of our greatest strengths. As stated in our long-standing Position Statement on Workforce Diversity in the Wildlife Profession, “The Wildlife Society recognizes the value of including the richness of human diversity in our efforts to discover, educate, inform policy, and involve the public in wildlife science and management.”
Similarly, the City of Raleigh, the Raleigh Convention Center and our two contracted hotels all have strong nondiscrimination policies. The mayor of Raleigh, Nancy McFarland, reinforced that position in a recent press release saying that the city, “…will always be open to everyone. Everyone. We will continue to support all of our businesses, citizens and visitors with the utmost respect, regardless of race, color, religion, age, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.”
To see the North Carolina Chapter of The Wildlife Society’s statement on diversity and the Annual Conference in Raleigh, click here.
The Raleigh Convention Center, where the bulk of the conference’s activities will be held, issued the following public statement:
“The Raleigh Convention Center will continue to support all customers and visitors with respect and care regardless of race, color, religion, age, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability…It is of the utmost importance that all attendees feel comfortable in our facility; and our staff will make every reasonable accommodation to ensure our guests feel welcome…”
For any member who is concerned about restroom access at our conference as a result of HB2, the convention center has four gender-neutral family restrooms and there are two at the facility where our opening night reception will be held. Additionally, the facilities have told us that there is no requirement in the law for them to police the restrooms and they have no interest in policing or plans to do so.
A few members have asked if we are considering moving the conference, but that’s not a viable option for TWS. We sign contracts with convention centers and hotels at least three years in advance to reserve the space required for an event that features more than 600 educational opportunities and more than 40 networking events. Since the facilities must hold that space for us that far in advance, the financial penalties for canceling are substantial—and in this case would cost TWS in excess of $300,000. Additionally, we would be hard-pressed to find another convention facility and hotels available with the extensive space we require just six months out as most facilities that meet our needs are usually booked up two to three years in advance.
If you want to protest against HB2 in some manner, we ask that you consider doing it in a way that won’t impact your attendance at your Society’s conference. Missing the conference not only deprives you of participation in what we believe will be our most engaging and rewarding conference to date, but also has a significant detrimental financial impact on your Society, given that we must cover substantial fixed costs regardless of the number of attendees.
“We are The Wildlife Society,” and together we will make this year’s conference safe, enjoyable and memorable for all of our members. We’ll post any additional information that may be helpful on our conference website at twsconference.org beginning May 15.