Confluence of Young Conservation Leaders

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Confluence of Young Conservation Leaders 2017

Confluence of Young Conservation Leaders 2017

The Conservation Leadership Corps (CLC) of Missouri hosted the inaugural Confluence of Young Conservation Leaders (CYCL) at Burr Oak Woods Nature Center near Kansas City from November 2-5. The event brought together young conservationists in youth programs from Missouri, Wisconsin, Texas, and Minnesota. In addition Florida, Michigan, and Louisiana all sent representatives interested in starting youth conservation leadership programs. Representatives from National Wildlife Federation’s EcoLeaders, Pheasants Forever/Quail Forever, and Bureau of Land Management/Public Land Foundation also attended in hopes of gaining insight on how to network with other youth conservation leadership programs.

The goal of the confluence was to bring together representatives from states with youth conservation leadership programs, national programs and those states considering developing such programs to share both expertise and experience, to improve existing programs and to foster the development of programs in additional states. Students and leaders did this by exchanging ideas and discussing communication and support strategies to help improve existing programs while encouraging other states to implement youth conservation leadership programs.

We were fortunate to hear from the Director of the Missouri Department of Conservation, Sara Parker Pauley and Eriqah Vincent, National EcoLeader Senior Coordinator for NWF.

Throughout the confluence the dialogue was robust and insightful. Students passionately discussed issues impacting all states including public land policies, water resources and diversity. They also discussed the intricacies of each of their leadership programs and the challenges and experiences each has had in creating, funding and managing programs. In the end, everyone left with new ideas to implement back home, whether planning to start their program from the ground up or improve an existing program. States offered to mentor and guide new program development. Each state has specific needs and their program needs to be tailored accordingly. The CYCL network will serve to provide continued support and a warehouse of information for states to build upon.

It was refreshing to share ideas and learn from each other. We all have the same goal in mind. We want to encourage, engage and foster the development of future conservation leaders. Our youth are the future. We need to help guide them and give them the tools to be successful.

Missouri CLC student Brooke Widmar stated, “My favorite part was getting to meet other students from across the country and pick their brains. What do they do differently? What works, and what doesn’t work? How do they partner with other organizations? How do they tie in legislative work? I heard so many great ideas, and I can’t wait to see what can be incorporated into our student group.”

We learned so much and plan to use this new knowledge to grow and improve our program. The opportunity to mentor our new friends as they begin programs will also be rewarding. And yes, they all became our friends. I have no doubt we will continue to collaborate to promote, train and provide leadership opportunities for our students while focusing on the issues and policies that threaten conservation.

“A confluence merges two or more rivers or streams, exchanging water and sediment to make a more diverse and powerful body of water. CYCL challenged, strengthened and in the end renewed us all. I am so grateful for the experience,” stated Ashley Hollis, President of Missouri CLC.

We left planning to continue CYCL by establishing a much larger and broader network of youth conservation organizations for the purpose of broadening the efficacy of existing groups and the inclusion of new organizations for the future. We can be more effective working together. A bunch of small voices is great, but we can be greater as one larger voice. You will see CYCL again in the future. Know that these youth are going to be our future leaders in conservation and will help make a difference. We can’t stop now. Future generations depend on us.

This event would not have happened without the partnerships of many organizations. Thank you to Prairie Fork Charitable Endowed Trust, University of Missouri School of Natural Resources, Conservation Foundation of Missouri Charitable Trust, Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, Texas Brigades, and the National Wildlife Federation for their financial and logistic support of this event.


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