During the second week of July, right at 140 individuals—including employees of agencies and organizations and landowners engaged in voluntary conservation—gathered in Kansas City, Missouri for a unique training opportunity at least three years in the making. Originally envisioned by the North American Bird Conservation Initiative (NABCI) Private and Working Lands Subcommittee, hosted by the Missouri Department of Conservation and the American Bird Conservancy, the forum brought together practitioners and landowners primarily from the Midwest to learn more about the human and interpersonal aspects of delivering voluntary conservation on private lands. The forum was sponsored by a wide range of agencies and organizations including major support from USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, and an inter-organizational planning team organized it. The forum was originally scheduled for March of 2020 and was probably one of the first regional conservation events canceled due to the pandemic.
The Planning Team stayed in touch with the individuals that had originally registered, the majority of which consistently expressed a preference for waiting until the event could be held in person. The meeting consisted of a series of panel and breakout discussions mixed in with traditional presentations, which resulted in a lot of opportunities to interact around the topics of building relationships, economic considerations for landowners, successful conservation planning, developing partnership projects that work for landowners and partners, human dimension considerations, and working at effective scales.
A report on the forum is in development and will be made available to everyone through this newsletter and will include results from a post meeting survey. Even though the meeting had a Midwest practitioner focus, representatives from the southeastern and western states were there, and attendees heard that many are grappling with similar issues, challenges, and opportunities—regardless of geography. In the weeks just prior, as well during the forum conversations, phone calls and emails indicated that there is great interest in repeating this experience around the country as well as elsewhere in the Midwest. More information and more opportunities to learn about these topics will be forthcoming!