Symposium Aims To Ensure Future of Hunting

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Shaping and ensuring a healthy future for hunting in North America will be the opportunity and challenge Dec. 3-6 when folks from near and far meet here for the 7th Governor’s Symposium on North America’s Hunting Heritage.

The conference is open to anyone with an interest in hunting and will feature leading authorities in wildlife conservation, outdoor recreation and marketing. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst will address those attending the hunter’s banquet at the conclusion of the symposium on Saturday evening. In addition to presentations from other such notable speakers as Steve Williams, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director and Shane Mahoney, Executive Director for Science with Newfoundland’s Department of Tourism, symposium participants will be asked to help define the role of hunting in the 21st Century, along with messages about how to keep hunting relevant in an increasingly urban society.

The first Governor’s Symposium on North America’s Hunting Heritage was in Montana in 1992, and participation has increased at other sites at each subsequent gathering. This year’s symposium is expected to draw more than 400 people from Canada, Mexico and the United States to work on "taking action to secure the future of hunting in North America," the theme of this year’s conference.

"This symposium is a continental effort," said Robert L. Cook, the executive director of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the agency that is hosting the conference. "We hope to come away from this event with action plans that will help restore hunting’s heritage in Canada, boost Mexico’s place in shaping the future of hunting and identify hunting’s role in a changing demographic in the U.S."

To that end, conference organizers have assembled a "Who’s Who" roster of the most knowledgeable players in the hunting and wildlife conservation arena, including: Rollin Sparrowe, president of the Wildlife Management Institute, Dr. Georgita J. Ruiz, directora general de Vida Silvestre SEMARNAT (the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s counterpart in Mexico), John Baughman, executive vice-president of the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Doug Painter, president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Bruce Matthews, president and CEO of the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, and Melinda Gable, executive director of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus.

Conservation organization leaders such as Rob Keck, National Wild Turkey Federation CEO, Don Young, president of Ducks Unlimited, Jim Posewitz with Orion The Hunter’s Institute, Greg Farrant, Government Relations Manager with the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters and Gerry Lee, chair of Hunting Heritage/Hunting Futures are also scheduled to participate in the symposium.

Among the issues to be addressed include hunter recruitment and retention, hunting ethics and safety, and wildlife conservation. Identifying and removing barriers to hunting is an important objective, so organizers want to encourage Texas hunters as well as hunters from other states to take time to attend this symposium.

One session will look at ways to resurrect local sportsmen’s clubs as a way to inject acceptance of and opportunities for hunting. The symposium will also explore ways to reach non-traditional users in an effective way that results not only in recruitment, but also retention of and responsibility among hunters. Improving mentoring programs will help retain hunters and that job will fall to existing conservation organizations and local sportsmen’s clubs.

Attendees are also expected to ratify a hunting accord that was drafted during the 2000 symposium in Ottawa, Canada, which established the following:

* Hunting is a sustainable activity with deep cultural and social roots and has tremendous economic impacts.

* The hunting communities and governmental agencies have created hunter safety and education programs that have made hunting safer than most other outdoor activities.

* Hunting has generated billions of dollars that support habitat conservation and enhancement that benefit all wildlife, including game animals.

* The hunting community is dedicated to using science-based information to manage wildlife populations and habitat.

The hunting accord works to articulate and teach ethical principles of hunting and to develop good relations between hunting groups and governmental agencies that regulate hunting and work for wildlife conservation.

"This symposium will help guide programs and policies for conservation organizations, sportsmen’s groups and governmental agencies and we feel we have put together a conference that can accomplish that goal," said Mike Berger, Wildlife Director for TPWD. "Individuals who come to this event can and will have a direct impact on hunting’s future."

A reception on Wednesday evening, Dec. 3, kicks off three days of seminars, workshops and panel discussions with a banquet Saturday evening. There will also be exhibits and displays from conservation groups, natural resource agencies and manufacturers. Attendees will also get to participate in a shooting event at the American Shooting Center and a special tour and dinner at Bass Pro Shops. Hunters and members of hunting organizations are encouraged to attend.

Conference registration is $265 in advance of the event and $300 starting on Dec. 3. For those who cannot attend the full conference, there is a daily rate of $125. Registration includes attendance at all meetings, the opening and closing banquets, exhibits, displays, meals and transportation to the participatory shooting event followed by a special night of barbecue, live music and discount shopping at Bass Pro Outdoor World in nearby Katy. For conference registration and hotel reservation information, visit the Web (, or call (361) 225-4500 (Registration) or the Marriott at (713) 961-1500.