Fish and Wildlife Relevancy Roadmap Helps Agencies Adapt to Change

By Chris Smith, Wildlife Management Institute

The Fish and Wildlife Relevancy Roadmap  is now available on the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies’ (AFWA) website. The Roadmap provides practical, non-prescriptive guidance agencies can use to adapt to ongoing changes in the social, ecological, and economic context for fish and wildlife conservation. These changes include accelerated habitat loss, declines in biodiversity, the impacts of climate change, and a society that is increasingly diverse, urban, and disconnected from nature. In response to these trends, agencies must find ways to engage more people in conservation.

The Relevancy Roadmap provides strategies, tactics, and examples of ongoing efforts to overcome 19 barriers that make it difficult for agencies to adapt to a changing operating environment. The barriers relate to agency culture and capacity, constituent culture and capacity, and legal and political constraints. Examples of some of the barriers are: agencies are not adaptive to the changing nature-based values and outdoor interests of broader constituencies; agencies lack capacity to identify, understand, engage with and serve the needs of broader constituencies; constituents may not recognize the threats facing fish and wildlife, their habitats, or how to engage to address the threats; and agency decision-making processes are used and influenced by a limited number of constituencies.

The Roadmap was developed by a diverse group of individuals from the U.S. and Canada employed by state/provincial and federal agencies, non-governmental organizations, tribes, business, industry, academia, and private citizens. Director of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, and AFWA President, Ed Carter, said, “The research is clear that in America today, our citizens are more and more disconnected from nature and the outdoors, and that disconnection makes our jobs as protectors of fish and wildlife all the more difficult.”  Tony Wasley, Director of the Nevada Department of Wildlife, and Steve Williams, President of the Wildlife Management Institute who oversaw development of the Roadmap wrote in the Foreword, “Many involved in this Relevancy Roadmap effort believe that this work addresses the most important challenge confronting natural resource agencies that we have faced in our careers.”

The Roadmap is intended to be a living document. It represents the current state of knowledge presented as a series of proposed solutions that must be implemented to discover how effective these strategies and tactics are. To be successful, the recommendations, strategies, and tactics included in the Roadmap must be applied in real-world conditions and refined according to the results they produce.

Over the next year, a number of states plan to pilot implementation of the Roadmap with support from the Wildlife Management Institute and funding from an AFWA multi-state conservation grant. The experience gained will be used to update and improve the ways fish and wildlife agencies can enhance conservation through broader public engagement.