Friday, February 28, 2020

2020 Conference Summary

On January 30st and 31st, 2020, the 13th Annual Kansas Natural Resources Conference (KNRC) set another attendance record of 466 at the Manhattan (KS) Convention Center. Of these, almost 300 were professionals and over 100 were students. The pre-conference workshop “Rangeland Carbon Storage” was attended by almost 70 people. Seventeen vendors supported the conference financially and with informational booths covering a wide range of topics. We greatly appreciate their contributions toward a very successful conference.

Christy Miller-Hesed (Engaging Faith Communities for Coastal Resilience) opened the conference with a keynote presentation about challenges to a small, rural, coastal community in Maryland facing a changing climate, sea level rise, increasing geographical isolation and limited access to government and private assistance. Ms. Miller described an innovative and ultimately successful approach to bringing the community together with those who could provide technical assistance so that trust was built, problems were mutually defined and collective decisions were made. By meeting residents on their own ground and effectively identifying comfortable and familiar venues for discussion, the community was able to solidify their issues and more effectively draw in the support needed for corrective actions.

Kicking off the second day of the conference, Carol Davit, Executive Director of the Missouri Prairie Foundation, provided an inspirational overview of challenges to remaining prairie in Missouri. She set the stage by recognizing that while the degree of native prairie lost in Kansas is troublesome, Missouri has lost vastly more and most of what remains is highly fragmented and/or impacted. Through beautiful and illuminating photography, Ms. Davit described the intrinsic value of even the smallest remnant acreages and the collective efforts of many to work to preserve them through easements and purchases, and when possible, reconstruction. Her photos described the diversity of these prairies and demonstrated that each is unique, providing immeasurable benefits to prairie ecosystems and organisms.

A total of 70 concurrent presentation grouped into five broad conservation categories were offered. Thirty-three posters covering a wide range of research topics were displayed throughout the conference. The award for best poster was presented during the popular social mixer the evening of the 30th. Also during the social, the Student Chapter of the Fisheries Society offered a silent auction of fun and useful items to raise money for the Society.

The fifth Conservation Champion Award was presented to Dr. Jerry deNoyelles during the closing luncheon. Jerry graciously and proudly accepted the award noting that the KNRC is his favorite, and in his opinion, the most important conference in Kansas because attendees have the common experience of being “in the trenches”, advancing conservation throughout the state. He emphasized that we all share in our successes and the conservation community in Kansas is exemplary.

The first Conservation Champion Award was awarded posthumously to Lance Hedges. Subsequent awardees have been Dr. Jim Triplett, John Strickler and Joe Kramer.

Planning is already underway for the 14th annual KNRC which will be at the Manhattan Convention Center on January 28 and 29, 2021.