Photo from the SECAS symposium at the 2022 SEAFWA annual conference showing 9 members of SECAS executive-level leadership seated at the front of the room, engaged in a panel discussion.
The SECAS symposium at the 2022 SEAFWA annual conference ended with a panel discussion with SECAS executive-level leadership.

This year’s Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (SEAFWA) conference was full of opportunities for SECAS to focus on in-person engagement around landscape scale conservation topics. Over the course of four days, SECAS staff participated in dedicated briefings, technical sessions, committee meetings, Blueprint demonstrations, and informal networking all in support of the SECAS partnership.

Representation from SECAS included Amanda Sesser, Mallory Martin, Hilary Morris, Louise Vaughn, Kayla Feist, and “Green Todd” Jones-Farrand. Why so many attendees, you ask? Simple, we were able to divide and conquer this conference by providing detailed briefings on SECAS and answering specific questions about the partnership, its relevance to SEAFWA, and application of the Southeast Conservation Blueprint to specific conservation challenges.

Amanda and Mallory met with the full delegation of state agency directors for an afternoon focused specifically on landscape scale conservation, SEAFWA, and SECAS. Discussion with the state directors highlighted the need to engage other partners and better communicate the specifics of the SECAS vision, direction, and accomplishments to date. Amanda and Mallory also met with leaders of each state’s fisheries programs and wildlife programs. These meetings helped bridge the awareness and engagement gaps about SECAS that sometimes exist between field-level practitioners and director-level leadership within state agencies.

SECAS’ in-person staff attendance and display table in the vendors arena allowed direct demonstration and consultation for applying the Southeast Conservation Blueprint to individual conservation topics and decisions. Hilary, Louise, and Kayla provided one-on-one assistance to a variety of potential Blueprint applications and answered numerous questions on the applicability and development approach for the Blueprint. The SECAS display table with a large Blueprint map, iPads and laptops for connectivity, and friendly smiling faces ensured there was always interest and engagement on SECAS from conference attendees. In addition, Green Todd engaged his extensive network in specific discussions about species conservation in the Southeast and related data management and modeling considerations.

Hilary stands to the left of the SECAS exhibit booth at the 2022 SEAFWA annual meeting.
User support staff promoted the new Blueprint update and answered questions at the SECAS exhibit booth.

One highlight of the conference was the SECAS Symposium on applying the Blueprint to conservation decisions at various scales. More than 60 persons attended the symposium which featured engaging presentations and a panel discussion of conservation leaders from a variety of backgrounds that will help define future directions for the SECAS partnership. An overview of the symposium is available here (click on “Symposia” on the left side and select SECAS | Applying the Southeast Conservation Blueprint Across Scales).

A complementary symposium held on the final conference day focused on collaborative conservation on private forests. This session featured various perspectives on conservation issues specific to working forests and strengthening existing partnerships to better engage with the 90% of the Southeast landscape that is privately owned. The discussion revealed some important considerations for SECAS for increasing relevance to private landowners and business sectors.