Earlier this month state and federal conservation agency staff and nongovernmental organization representatives from across the West gathered in Manhattan, Kansas. The Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) meets twice annually and is one of the major leadership gatherings for fish and wildlife agencies across the West. In addition to several days of committee meetings around topics of interest to the agencies, the meeting also features a plenary session that includes presentations on topics of interest to the group, often organized around a theme.
This year’s plenary session had a strong focus on private lands conservation partnerships featuring presentations from agency staff, nongovernmental organization staff, and private landowners that are engaged in conservation partnerships in Kansas. This is not surprising given the fact that Kansas land is overwhelmingly privately owned, over 98% according to some sources. With those kind of numbers it is obvious that if you are working on wildlife conservation in Kansas, partnerships with private landowners are key.
Both landowners and agency staff did a wonderful job, not only describing the great work that they have done with partners, but also providing some insight as to how that work gets done. Communication, relationship building, trust and partnership development were either mentioned specifically or implied throughout the talks.
Depending upon your perspective, it can be easy to lose sight of the fact that we depend on our national working landscapes for so much. If you look at things through a wildlife conservation lens, thoughts of food and fiber production, clean water aquifer recharge, and open space may not cross your mind that often. But if you regularly work with private landowners, local communities and other diverse partner with an interest in a landscape, it is easier to remember that we are all depending on those same acres to remain productive and sustainable for something. Those in attendance in Manhattan this month were reminded that we are all in it together.