homepage logo

Refuge system sets goals for next decade

By Staff | Jul 6, 2011

J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge and “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge (DDWS) staff will be among 1,200 professionals and citizen conservationists who will hear from Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar; retired U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, who headed the federal response to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill; and historian/author Douglas Brinkley at the National Wildlife Refuge System “Conserving the Future” conference in Madison, Wisc.

The conference will be held July 11-14, when a new vision will be ratified to guide the Refuge System for the next decade.

Supervisory Refuge Ranger Toni Westland will be leading a conference seminar about the refuge’s new iNature Trail along Wildlife Drive, which uses pioneering QR code technology to connect techie visitors with nature. The trail is the first of its kind among the more than 550 refuges in the system.

DDWS Executive Director Birgie Vertesch will be co-leading a seminar about volunteer recruitment and refuge fundraising.

The conference – one of the nation’s largest gatherings of conservationists — is the culmination of a months-long, highly transparent process to create a reinvigorated vision for the Refuge System.

Over the past six months, Americans submitted more than 10,000 comments to the draft vision, posted online at americaswildlife.org, where more information about the vision and the conference is available.

Speakers will also include noted oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle; award-winning nature photographer Dewitt Jones, who traveled the globe for National Geographic; MacArthur-winning environmental activist Majora Carter; and Juan Martinez with the nonprofit Children & Nature Network and named by National Geographic as one of its Emerging Explorers.

“Ding” Darling Wildlife Society will be among more than 100 non-profit Refuge System Friends organizations at the conference.

The Refuge System, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is the nation’s largest network of federal lands and waters dedicated to the protection of wildlife and the habitat on which it depends.

The Refuge System is composed of 553 national wildlife refuges spanning about 150 million acres. More than 44 million people visit wildlife refuges each year.

The new vision will help the Refuge System implement the best wildlife conservation practices guided by the latest science.

The Refuge System’s new vision recognizes the rapid social and environmental changes that have taken place over the last decade or so.

One idea slated for discussion: to establish an interagency team to improve habitat conservation and the conservation literacy of America, especially among the young.

“This is precisely the vision we targeted with our new iNature Trail,” said Westland. “There’s already a lot of interest from the other refuges about following our leadership.”

The Conserving the Future conference will also showcase a modern face of the federal government: Many conference proceedings will be live-streamed. Texting, mobile communications, and social networking will all play essential communications roles.

The Refuge System will offset carbon emissions tied to conference travel with contributions to The Conservation Fund’s Go Zero program.

As a non-profit 501(c)3 organization, DDWS works to support J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge’s mission of conservation, wildlife and habitat protection, research, and public education through charitable donations and Refuge Nature Shop proceeds.

To support DDWS and the refuge with a tax-deductible gift, visit www.dingdarlingsociety.org or contact Birgie Vertesch at 239-292-0566, 472-1100 ext. 4, or director@dingdarlingsociety.org.