Every 20 years or so Wyoming takes its turn hosting the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies annual meeting.This group, known as WAFWA, facilitates the exchange of ideas between professional biologists and other wildlife managers from across the western part of the continent. WAFWA’s 23 states, provinces and even one territory account for over 40 percent of the landmass of North America and an incredible wildlifrce.
The overall theme for the Wyoming gathering was partnerships in conservation. Those of us in wildlife management know partnerships are invaluable and we can point to a track record of success, with much to be proud of. The amazing conservation success stories we in the West can herald include the black-footed ferret, the sage grouse, cutthroat trout and more recently the grizzly bear. All of these happen because of collaborations between states, tribes, federal agencies, private landowners, conservation groups and a lot of funding from sportsmen. So, we need to continue to build and fortify partnerships. Our meeting this summer helped with that effort.
There are urgent and daunting tasks ahead, as well. The West has been hit by droughts decimating wildlife populations; wildlife diseases spread and new ones emerge; our cultures have changed with fewer people recreating in the outdoors; invasive species imperil traditional habitats; the list goes on. Working together we are stronger and more effective in facing down these challenges. Developing the latest strategies for improving wildlife management was the business of this summer’s meeting. The docket was full of important topics: the future of the Colorado River and its impact on wildlife; improving collaborations between states, tribes and the federal government; reducing human/wildlife conflicts; and arresting the decline of mule deer populations. There were many other worthy discussions as well and the import of the debate and exchange is why we were so glad to participate and support the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. Together the member agencies do incredible things for our wildlife resource and the public we serve.
Another highlight was the overwhelming support that came in to pay for this conference. It was not paid for by public dollars, but rather by fundraising. I will say thank you, on behalf of everyone who attended, to our sponsors and contributors. There were too many to list here, but I hope a note of thanks will suffice on these pages. Those of us in wildlife management believe all of you who love Wyoming’s wildlife benefit from these partnerships and from trying to make them better each year.
By Scott Talbott
Orginally printed in Wyoming Wildlife Magazine
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