ON THE HORIZON: August 2017, Issue 7

Posted by WAFWA on August 1, 2017
The Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) brought together state, federal and local partners who have an interest in western wildlife issues for its 97th annual summer conference. More than 400 people took part. Attendees include directors, commissioners and key staff from western fish and wildlife agencies, as well as federal officials and representatives from key conservation organizations across the country. Hosted by Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the event was held in Vail, CO from July 6-11. Dozens of sessions covered conservation issues of concern, from a meeting of the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative Council to numerous committee and working group meetings regarding various wildlife species and program disciplines.

Of particular note was approval of several white papers related to sage-grouse management that will help inform the Department of the Interior review of current conservation efforts called for by Secretarial Order 3353. The Sagebrush Executive Oversight Committee approved four white papers on sage-grouse captive breeding, hunting, predator control and population and habitat management.

“The white papers were intended to convey to the Department of the Interior the current state of the science and state experiences with these topics,” said Virgil Moore, Director of Idaho Fish and Game and Chairman of the Sagebrush Executive Oversight Committee. ?WAFWA appreciates the opportunity to bring our technical expertise to the table.?

During the business meeting, directors also approved several resolutions, including one related to wild horse and burro management on Bureau of Land Management lands, and one related to federal block grant support for black-footed ferret recovery efforts.READ WHITE PAPERSREAD WAFWA RESOLUTIONSA highlight of the WAFWA summer conference is the annual awards ceremony honoring conservation professionals from across the West. Joanna Prukop from New Mexico was honored with WAFWA’s most prestigious award, the Phillip W. Schneider Lifetime Achievement Award. California Fish and Wildlife Officer Nicole Kozicki was honored with the Pogue-Elms Law Enforcement Officer of the Year Award for her tireless pursuit of environmental crimes. Craig McMullen from Arizona received WAFWA’s Professional of the Year Award for his career achievements at the Arizona Game and Fish Department. Find out more about the awards and the honorees:READ MOREOregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Curt Melcher was elected as WAFWA?s new president at the business meeting at the annual conference.

“I’ve been fortunate to see some important conservation successes during my 30 year career,” said Melcher. “These successes are largely driven by decisions made decades ago, many of them by WAFWA agencies. I’m hopeful we can build on that legacy and lay the foundation for future conservation successes.”

Other board members elected for a year’s term are:

First vice-president:
Keith Sexson, Asst. Secty., Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism
Second vice-president:
Mike Fowlks, Director Utah Division of Wildlife Resources
Third vice-president:
Alexandra Sandoval, Director, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish
Secretary: Larry KruckenbergWAFWA
Treasurer: Deb VonDeBurWAFWA

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has already begun planning next year’s summer conference, to be held in Eugene, July 12-17, 2018.WAFWA has released a new video showcasing how the mitigation program in the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Range-wide Conservation Plan is successfully conserving habitat for this iconic grassland bird. The video documents work being done on a West Texas ranch that is being funded by industry participation in the plan. The video was produced through a partnership between WAFWA, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and Pheasants Forever and was screened for members of the Lesser Prairie-chicken Initiative Council at the summer meeting in Vail. Council members were also briefed on the results of this year?s aerial survey documenting lesser prairie-chicken population trends.

Another highlight of the meeting was the election of a new chair and vice chair. J.D. Strong, Director of Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation was elected chair, and Bob Broscheid, Director of Colorado Parks and Wildlife will serve as vice chair.SEE VIDEOKeith Sexson (KS), Alexandra Sandoval (NM), J.D. Strong (OK), and Ross Melinchuk (TX), examine a ranch map on WAFWA?s new Wildlife Conservation Toolkit, which provides mobile field data collection apps and website access.

Lesser Prairie-chicken Initiative Council members took to the field in southwest Kansas in June to view first-hand conservation efforts on a ranch purchased by WAFWA in 2016. The 30,000-acre ranch permanently protects high-quality lesser prairie-chicken habitat, an important goal of the range-wide plan. Staff gave overviews of the conservation plan for the ranch as well as the newly completed conservation easement that has been placed on the ranch.WAFWA is pleased to welcome aboard Eric Sproles, the new coordinator for the Critical Habitat Assessment Tool (CHAT). Eric brings over 12 years of experience linking natural resources, data, and people across the Americas. As CHAT Coordinator, Eric will oversee CHAT’s day-to-day management and will also work to continue improving its data and tools and increasing its use across member states.

“From the moment I saw the CHAT interface, I was impressed,” said Sproles. “To distill that much information into a single web-based map is impressive. There is also a lot of room for the analysis component of CHAT to expand. But what I find most exciting is the opportunity to work with the range of professionals that make up WAFWA. I look forward to the challenges and collaborations that await.”

Sproles invites stakeholders to get in touch with him for a chat about CHAT anytime. If you have a question or idea you can find him at eric.sproles@wafwa.org