Opening Plenary: Recognizing and Sustaining Conservation Success

Opening Plenary: Recognizing and Sustaining Conservation Success


Read more about Monday’s plenary here.

A great crowd turns out to attend Monday’s opening plenary!!

We are kicking off the 25th TWS Annual Conference with the opening plenary, “Recognizing and Sustaining Conservation Success!” President John McDonald welcomes wildlifers to another fun, engaging TWS conference and reflects on his term as president.

“Working with the staff and council members to meet our goals has been great,” he said.

“I think it’s important to reflect on these success stories,” McDonald said. “Realize we can solve these problems, we can achieve these goals and lead to conservation success.”

TWS CEO Ed Thompson thanks U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and USDA Wildlife Services for their partnership with The Wildlife Society. This year marks five years of partnership between TWS and Wildlife Services!!

TWS CEO thanking Larry Clark for 5 years of partnership with Wildlife Services.


Benjamin Tuggle, expressing the importance of partnership for the future of wildlife conservation and management.


“We can’t get to our goals and continue to have wildlife in this country unless we invest in our future, and you are our future,” said Benjamin Tuggle, the assistant director for Science Applications, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Carol Bocetti opens up the plenary topic – Recognizing and Sustaining Conservation Success!

Kirtland’s Warblers Sing the Sweet Song of Success! How Collaborative Conservation Can Recover a Conservation-reliant Species.

Dr. Carol I. Bocetti, Professor, Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, California University of Pennsylvania

With the first recovery team under the Endangered Species Act, the kirtland’s warbler team began making plantations where they harvested old trees and planted seedlings in a formation to replicate pine thicket and opening that’s usually seen after wildfires, Bocetti said. They also completed cowbird control to protect the birds. Educating the public was also important.

“It’s a real ‘if you build it, they will come story,'” she said.

“We are confident that we have the structure to maintain the species even though it is conservation-reliant,” Bocetti said.

The kirtland’s warbler story was an inspiring one! Now, we’re ready to hear about snow leopard successes from Tom McCarthy Executive Director of the Snow Leopard Program with PANTHERA.

Conservation efforts contributed to an improved IUCN Red List status for snow leopards – so why are we not all happy?

Tom McCarthy, Executive Director, Snow Leopard Program, PANTHERA, New York, NY

Killing of snow leopards after they attack people’s livestock is one of the biggest reasons for their decline as well as loss of natural prey such as wild sheep and goats and poaching for their hides and bones. Conservationists have to consider the unique cultures of people at different sites when dealing with snow leopard conservation.

“Maybe if we could somehow offer these people markets for their goods, we can convince them with that added income they could deal with those losses of livestock,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy figured out a way to do this. If people promise not to kill snow leopards, a program now takes their raw wool turns into marketable products that is now sold across the U.S. and Europe.

Tourism has also helped teach people that snow leopards are more important alive than dead, McCarthy said.

So are snow leopards still endangered? McCarthy said in a 2014 assessment, there were a few opposing viewpoints, but they were labeled vulnerable.

“If I’m not endangered, are you still going to take care of me?” McCarthy asked for the snow leopard. “If we could all get past names and titles, there’s going to be a positive story for snow leopard,” he said.

Rounding out a very successful opening plenary today is Chris Dwyer, discussing river otters!

The Return of River Otters in North America

Chris Dwyer, Regional Chief, Hunting & Fishing, USFWS, Hadley, MA

It might not seem like river otters were ever in trouble. Before European settlement, river otters were all over North America, said Chris Dwyer Regional Chief, Hunting & Fishing with USFWS. But by 1973, there was little hope of having a viable river otter population throughout the country. But the Clean Water Act, establishment of state agencies and hunting and trapping relations and land protection helped set the stage for river otter recovery.

Reintroduction efforts helped bring the species back. States traded and purchased river otters from one another to complete these restoration efforts, Dwyer said. They were all captured by trappers using modern foothold traps.

From 1976 to 2010, starting in Colorado and ending in New Mexico river otter reintroduction was complete.

“It’s a pretty significant success effort,” Dwyer said. “This is not only based off of work of people putting otters out there but what has occurred since then.”

Registration will open soon! Check back later this month to take advantage of early bird registration rates!