Presenters: Meryl Harrell, Megan McConville, and Bob Christensen
This session will explore how conservation groups can think differently about the intersection of conservation with rural economic development. Meryl Harrell will frame the conversation, share thoughts on why conservation groups should be thinking about these opportunities, and highlight some initial work being done within USDA and on the Farm Bill to break down these silos. Megan McConville will share valuable insights on how to connect with rural economic development opportunities from her years of work on community development initiatives at multiple levels, as well as her experience with federal agencies. Bob Christensen will share practical advice and reflections from his two decades of experience putting these ideas into practice in southeast Alaska, where he mentors entrepreneurs and works to integrate social, ecological, and economic values into community-based natural resource projects, and as co-lead of the Rural Development Working Group for the Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition (RVCC). Participants will also have the opportunity to hear from each other and bring forward their own ideas and experiences, so we can learn together.
By understanding and engaging with community-driven priorities for economic development, conservation groups can:
- Identify and prioritize conservation and recreation opportunities that support jobs, economic growth, and quality of life in rural communities;
- Identify and compete or support partner applications for new and complementary funding opportunities, including within USDA’s Rural Development Programs; and
- Build lasting local and regional relationships and gain new partners and voices for conservation and public lands.