OLYMPIA—Up to140 community leaders and business owners, tour operators, conservationists and state officials are expected to convene Sept. 28-29 in Friday Harbor, San Juan Island, for a forum aimed at building Washington’s $1 billion annual wildlife-viewing tourism business.
The event—the third of its kind in as many years—is presented by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), the Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development (CTED), the Department of Transportation and the San Juan Island Visitors Bureau.
Themed “Byways and Watchable Wildlife – Making the Connection,” the conference will take place at the San Juan Island Yacht Club, 237 Front St., in Friday Harbor.
Washington’s wildlife-viewing tourism industry is the seventh largest in the nation, with wildlife watchers in Washington State spending nearly $1 billion annually. More than a dozen local communities across the state host annual wildlife-viewing festivals, most launched within the past decade.
The conference will feature presentations by John Herron, director of conservation programs for the Texas chapter of The Nature Conservancy, and Judy Walden, president of Walden Mills Group and a specialist in rural tourism development.
Herron will speak about working with communities and private lands, offering lessons learned from his involvement in creating the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail that covers 600 miles and includes over 100 communities. Walden will discuss how scenic byways can play a role in balancing the economic benefits of tourism with protection of local, natural, and cultural resources.
A reception at The Whale Museum in Friday Harbor will kick off the event, and field trips will be available before and after the conference.
The conference is part of a larger, on-going state effort to assist communities in developing sustainable wildlife-based tourism. In related activities, WDFW and CTED, in collaboration with community and business leaders, have developed a master plan for statewide wildlife-related tourism development.
More recently, the 2005 Legislature approved $500,000 in capital funds for watchable-wildlife projects, including signage, trails, parking areas, and other amenities.
The conference registration fee is $50, which includes the reception, breakfast, and lunch. The deadline for registration is Sept. 15. Interested individuals are encouraged to register early, as the conference facility capacity is limited to 140.
For more information, visit the conference website at http://www.experiencewashington.com/wwc/wwc_overview.html