OLYMPIA — Community leaders, business owners, tour operators, conservationists, private landowners and state officials will gather Sept. 12-13 at Crystal Mountain near Mount Rainier to explore ways to reconnect people with the outdoors through sustainable wildlife-related tourism.
The fifth annual conference is sponsored by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), the Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development (CTED), Audubon Washington and the Washington State Department of Transportation (WDOT).
The conference, part of an ongoing state effort to assist local communities in developing sustainable, wildlife-based tourism, will highlight trends in outdoor tourism and ways to involve Washington citizens in outdoor recreation.
The focus of this year’s conference, “Pathways to Nature,” was inspired by Gov. Chris Gregoire’s Healthiest State in the Nation Campaign.
“We know that being outdoors and enjoying the natural beauty of Washington is good for us but, for many, it’s no longer part of our daily lives,” Gregoire said. “Wildlife festivals and other nature-based events are a great way to get back into Washington’s great outdoors.”
Wildlife viewing is one of the most popular activities in the United States and nature-related tourism is one of the fastest-growing segments of the travel industry, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife and U.S. Census Bureau. According to the 2006 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Related Recreation conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, spending on wildlife-viewing activities in Washington was nearly $1.5 billion, a 51 percent increase since 2001.
Conference keynote speaker Martin LeBlanc, National Youth Education director for the Sierra Club in Seattle, discuss ways to remedy “nature-deficit disorder” among youngsters. Sheila Buckmaster, senior editor of National Geographic Traveler magazine, will speak on trends in outdoor tourism. Advice on promoting nature-based recreation will be offered by a panel of speakers including Laureen Lund, creator of Gig Harbor’s Healthy Harbor Campaign; Lauren Braden, developer of the Washington Trails Association “Families Go Hiking” program; and Andy DuMaine, founder of shrinkingfootprint, a strategic marketing firm advancing sustainable tourism efforts.
Other program highlights include an exhibit showcasing emerging and established nature photographers; a digital photography workshop; vendor displays; a nature walk with Chuck Gibilisco, WDFW wildlife biologist; and a presentation on Revisiting Washington, an electronic remake of the 1941 Washington, a Guide to the Evergreen State. An outline of the full program can be found at http://www.wildlifemou.com/2007WWC/program.html.
The program registration fee is $75 and includes the photography workshop, reception, continental breakfast, lunch, refreshments, a copy of “Last Child in the Woods,” by Richard Louv, a Revisiting Washington CD, and conference admission.
For registration and more information, visit the conference website at http://www.wildlifemou.com/2007WWC/