Passion and Can-Do Attitude: The Spirit Behind State Conservation Partnerships

In the early 2000s, Steve Tessmann observed a bleak reality. The quality of wetland habitat in his favorite duck hunting areas in Goshen Hole, Wyoming was in a decline. Wetlands were drying up one by one due to changes in water use, rural subdivision and climate change. Tessmann is a wildlife staff biologist with Wyoming Game and Fish Department. Moved by the potentially damaging outcomes to food availability and habitat condition for ducks and other water-loving wildlife, he got a fire in his belly to bring conservation partners together to address the issue.

“The Wyoming Bird Conservation Partnership decided to focus our scope of involvement on wetlands because 90 percent of wildlife use wetlands at some point in their lifecycle,”said Tessmann. “There are other groups focusing on terrestrial species and we saw our niche as an entity to empower local conservation groups by connecting them with other partners, technical support and funding around wetland work.”

This site in the Middle Rio Grande depicts the type of landscape the New Mexico SCP is working to conserve. 

This is the heart of the IWJV State Conservation Partnerships – people that are passionate about wildlife conservation and motivated to affect change where threats loom. Collaboration with public and private partners on conservation issues can be a buzz phrase. But what makes the State Conservation Partnerships, called SCPs, unique is that they ground the science-based, partnership-driven bird habitat work of the Joint Venture in local places and communities. And most importantly, they get work done.

In Wyoming, for example, the SCP has been successful in securing nearly $5 million from various federal and non-federal funding sources to support wetland habitat conservation – ranging from partner biologists to on-the-ground wetland habitat restoration and enhancement projects. In eastern Washington, the SCP has been the key entity to bring partners together to focus on pooling resources to fund spring migratory waterfowl surveys and other habitat assessments to prioritize wetlands work in the Channeled Scablands and Columbia Basin.

Today, the IWJV has 11 active SCPs with more than 800 SCP members or partners that engage in bird habitat conservation. Each SCP seeks to fill a specific niche and move the needle in habitat conservation in their state at a landscape scale. Planning happens by working with federal, state fish and wildlife agency and non-governmental partners to link species with key habitat actions and needs. In this way, the SCP is the linchpin for helping the Joint Venture translate regional objectives to state and local habitat objectives. 

The Wyoming SCP members met in Casper in the spring of 2016 to discuss the conservation issues they are working on and opportunities for funding.

These state partnerships are organized and coordinated by a chair or chair/co-chair. Chairs are committed, partnership-minded wildlife professionals from state fish and wildlife agencies, federal agencies or non-profit conservation organizations. Some bring years of expertise and experience to their role as chair. For example, Terry Mansfield spent 33 years working for state fish and wildlife agencies in the west, and now operates a ranch in Cheney, Washington. As a lifelong conservationist and private landowner, he is especially interested seeing habitat conservation happen in his state. 

"In Washington, the SCP has been effective in figuring out how to deliver on-the-ground habitat conservation through collaboration,” said Mansfield. “The flexibility provided by public-private partnerships has proven to be powerful in focusing on priorities and challenges. Based on conversations with locally elected officials and national organizations, this approach resonates not just locally but on a national scale as a means of getting strategic habitat conservation done.”

This heartfelt passion, relationship-building, and know-how all coalesced during this year’s Annual SCP Chair Meeting in Jackson, Wyoming. Over 30 people participated in this year’s get-together throughout two full days of animated meetings and spectacular field tours. The group discussed the future of their state partnerships, challenges around funding, science-based processes for wetland prioritization, niches and what makes them relevant. Some of the states have new chairs and these folks looked to their seasoned comrades for guidance and best practices.

The SCP Chairs are can-do folks that bring a collaborative energy that is infectious. Their dedication to science-based habitat conservation through partnerships is how the IWJV gets work done on the ground. Check out this exceptional cast of characters and how lucky we are to have them here!

2016 Summer Newsletter Articles:

Saline Lakes: Migratory Bird and Human Connections

Creativity Sparks Unique Watchable Wildlife Experience in Arizona 

Passion and Can-Do Attitude: The Spirit Behind State Conservation Partnerships

Tribal Bird Habitat Blossoms in Wyoming Wind River Basin Focus Area

Nominate a Conservation Champion, 2016 IWJV Awards Call 

Follow IWJV on Twitter