By Tad Segal, President, Outreach Strategies There’s something going on when you can get more than 100 people in a room in Washington, D.C., to talk about conservation and environmental stewardship. When those people also happen to believe in market-based approaches and limited government intervention – let’s just say it ain’t your average crowd. What brought these particular people together on a clear, crisp January day was the launch of the first Conservation and Stewardship Conference held at the Top of the Hill Banquet and Conference Center at the Reserve Officers Association on Capitol Hill. This initiative promises to yield important results for environmental conservation and collaboration in the months and years ahead, precisely because it doesn’t take the usual approach of singing to the choir. Attended by hunters, ranchers, farmers, military veterans, sportsmen groups, policymakers and businessmen, the conference focused on the importance of engaging conservatives and harnessing conservative values to improve the stewardship of our nation's environment and natural resources. The event - which aired on C-SPAN - was the culmination of a year of activities by the Conservation Leadership Council (CLC), an initiative spearheaded by a group of visionary business executives, former government officials, and public policy experts. The CLC is committed to advancing innovative approaches to America's environmental challenges. Among CLC's founders are Gale Norton, former Secretary of the Interior, and Ed Schafer, former Governor of North Dakota and U.S. Agriculture Secretary. OS has been working with the CLC since early 2012 to introduce and promote the council at a series of roundtables across the country that showcased conservation efforts and the role of the private sector and the importance of on-the-ground community initiatives to their success. Through these regional roundtables and the D.C. event, we have seen the interest and even hunger for these diverse conversations and entrepreneurial solutions. Further evidence of this desire for practical, locally driven results is also evident in the media attention the CLC has received. As part of the D.C. Conference, OS placed CLC members on more than 75 radio stations across the country and in leading news and broadcast outlets. This included the live broadcast on C-SPAN.org that has also been airing on various C-SPAN networks over the past several weeks, reaching millions of viewers; a segment on E&E TV; as well as articles in Politico, National Journal, ClimateWire and other publications. What’s interesting is that the CLC is not alone in its efforts to engage diverse audiences and welcome a variety of voices into the discussion about preserving what all Americans hold dear – our public lands, clean air, pure water and wide open spaces. The CLC is on the leading edge of similar efforts that have recently been surfacing, albeit with more focus on specific topic areas such as climate change or energy. What this demonstrates is that perhaps we’ve set our sights too low. Perhaps a room full of 100 conservatives interested in environmental stewardship isn’t a very big gathering after all. We’ll find out next January at the Second Annual Conservation and Stewardship Conference. Stay tuned.
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