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Click the tabs below to view details about each day of conference. Specific session information will continue to be made as conference gets closer.

OWAA Board Meeting 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Members welcome to attend

Registration Noon – 8 p.m.

Follow the Money Workshop 1 – 3 p.m.
Whether you write about hunting and fishing, gas and oil development, or other outdoor issues, chances are there’s a political aspect to your story. Representatives from the non-partisan, non-profit National Institute on Money in State Politics will be on hand to show you how to follow the political money in your state and across state lines. Using computer assisted reporting, you can look through their database of 60 million records totaling more than $60 billion to learn who is trying to influence the decisions made in your neck of the woods. Bring along a story idea or two; after showing you how to navigate, they’ll stick around for some hands-on use of their website. The workshop is free, as is the use of their database.

Becoming an Outdoors Communicator Workshop 2 – 5 p.m.
This free, three-hour workshop, open to the public, will feature some of OWAA’s most prolific and best-known communicators who explain the ins and outs of their area of expertise. This year’s topics include opportunities in outdoor organizations, newspapers, photography, radio, state conservation agencies, nonprofits and the outdoor industry. Please join Pat Wray and fellow OWAA members for this popular prelude to the OWAA conference.

Photography Workshop with Ann & Rob Simpson 3 – 5+ p.m.
Classroom session from 1 – 3 p.m. with field session to follow at Pompeys Pillar.
Bring your camera and join Ann and Rob Simpson in a special hands-on, pre-conference photography workshop. The Simpsons are professional shooters and seasoned instructors leading Canon “Photography in the Parks” workshops teaching thousands of visitors in places like the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone National Park. Their teaching style has been described as relaxed, patient and stress-free. Instruction begins in the classroom at 1 p.m. at the Radisson Hotel Billings. Participants will then practice what they’ve learned with a field session at Pompeys Pillar. This workshop is for seasoned pros and beginners playing with their point-and-shoot cameras. Classroom attendance is not required for joining the field session.

Green Ribbon Meeting 5 – 5:30 p.m.
First-time at an OWAA conference? Haven’t been in a while? Join program chair Phil Bloom and conference planner Jessica Seitz who explain the ins and outs of the conference and what the “can’t miss’ events are. Meet other OWAA members happy to act as mentors to help you navigate your first conference.

Shuttles to Downtown Billings 5 – 6 p.m.

Dinner out in Downtown Billings 6 – 8 p.m.
Meet up with old friends and make new ones while experiencing some of the great dining options, breweries and distilleries in Downtown Billings.

Shuttles from Downtown Billings 8 – 9 p.m.

President’s Hospitality Suite 8:30 p.m. +
Celebrate as we toast OWAA President Lisa Densmore Ballard for her service over the past year.

Registration (Daily) 7 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Opening Breakfast 8 – 8:45 a.m.
Sponsored by Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A.

Keynote: Tim Cahill 8:45 – 9:30 a.m.
Sponsored by Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
Tim Cahill is a founding editor of Outside magazine. His published work has appeared in Rolling Stone, Outside, Field & Stream, Esquire, the New York Times Book Review, National Geographic, National Geographic Traveler and many other publications. Cahill has won numerous awards, including The National Magazine Award and the Society of American Travel Writers’ Lowell Thomas Award. He is the author of nine books, one of which (“Jaguars Ripped My Flesh”) made National Geographic’s list of the “100 best adventure travel books ever written.” Cahill is the co-author of four IMAX documentaries, including “Everest” and “The Living Sea.” Two of these documentaries were nominated for Academy Awards. He also has been “writer in residence” at San Jose State University. Cahill, who has made his living writing for 45 years, lives in the shadows of the Crazy Mountains in Montana.

3-Day Displays (Daily) 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.

EIC Winners Showroom (Daily) 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Press Room (Daily) 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Sponsored by Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A.

Coffee Break Station (Daily) 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Sponsored by Mississippi Tourism

NEWSMAKER Status Report: Are Traditional Conservation Funding Models Broken? 9:45 – 11:15 a.m.
Speakers: Tom Busiahn, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Dave Chadwick, Montana Wildlife Federation; Mark Humpert, Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies; Cailin O’Brien-Feeney, Outdoor Industry Association
The “user pays” approach to funding fish, wildlife and public lands conservation is a familiar concept. But those models face increasing challenges – some that were never anticipated when funding programs were established decades ago. Are the traditional funding models broken? Can they be fixed? Should they be replaced? A blue-ribbon panel will explore current conservation funding models and set the stage for other newsmaker sessions that dig deeper into the challenges of protecting wildlife and public lands.

The Outdoor Essay: Writing it. Selling it. 9:45 – 10:25 a.m.
Speaker: Chris Madson
How should a writer develop an opinion so that it attracts readers? And before that, how does he sell it to an editor? A veteran of many years of essay writing discusses the attraction of the essay as a form and the challenges involved in making essays pay.

Spouse/Partner/Family Welcome 10:30 – 11:30 a.m.
Welcome event for all spouses, partners, families and guests. Meet new people and become reacquainted with others. Find out what opportunities are available to you throughout the conference. A Visit Billings representative will be on hand to help you plan additional activities.

Writing for Trade, NGO and Agency Publications 10:35 a.m. – 11:15 p.m.
Speakers: Amy Bulger, Wyoming Wildlife; Ryck Lydecker, BoatU.S.
Moderator: Mark Kelly
Off-newsstand publications can be a great addition to your freelance mix, often paying reasonable rates and reaching wide audiences. However these publications may also have a very narrow focus or a very specific mission or trade to promote, so not all stories or publications will be a good match. Hear from editors of these various outlets for tips on a breaking into or forming a last relationships within this market.

NEWSMAKER Challenge: Fire Borrowing 11:30 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.
Speakers: Mary Mitsos, National Forest Foundation; Erin O’Connor, U.S. Forest Service; James Ogsbury, Western Governors’ Association
In 1995, the U.S. Forest Service devoted 16 percent of its annual budget to fighting wildfires. Today it’s almost half — and often that is barely enough, forcing the agency into a practice known as fire borrowing where funds are pulled from unrelated accounts to shore up firefighting efforts. The consequences include a $5.5 billion maintenance backlog; cuts to habitat and fisheries programs; and an inability to remove dead and diseased trees and undergrowth that become hazardous fuels for the next big wildfire.

Everything You’ve Always Wanted to Know About Microsoft Excel But Were Afraid to Ask! 11:30 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.
Speaker: Dennis Pollett, Microsoft
Spend 45 minutes wallowing in spreadsheet heaven with a former Excel instructor/author and current Microsoftee. Dennis will cover a myriad of features, tips, and topics for anyone using Excel at any experience level. Topics include formulas and data analysis. Questions welcome during the session. Dennis also will be available for drop-in questions during the conference, so bring your spreadsheets for some one-on-one feedback and troubleshooting

Brown Bag Discussion Lunch 12:30 – 1:50 p.m.
Table hosts should arrive by 12:20 p.m.
Pick up a sack lunch and then join a table for a small group discussion with key experts on various business and news topics. The list of topics is available in your registration packet and on each table. Switch tables as often as you desire to participate in a variety of discussions or to interview table hosts.

Shoot from the Heart & Photography section meeting 2 – 3:30 p.m.
Looking for photographic inspiration and to connect with your fellow OWAA photographers? Hear what a selection of OWAA shutterbugs are most passionate about right now as they share their latest projects, new discoveries, and exciting stories from their journeys in this fast-paced PechaKucha presentation-style event.

Trends and Opportunities in Outdoor Journalism 2- 3:30 p.m.
Speakers: Ed Kemmick, Kris Millgate, Brett Prettyman, Brent Wheat
With outlets and pay rates shrinking, it can seem impossible to make a living as an outdoor journalist or to get your important outdoor stories told. But join our panelists as they share the creative ways they have been able to monetize their content or get their projects funded. Also hear how journalism students are being prepared to face this new environment.

Mobile-friendly Websites and Apps for Magazines 3:40 – 4:20 p.m.
Speakers: Russell Roe, Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine, others TBD
People are on their smartphones and tablets practically 24/7 these days, so if you cannot reach them there, it can be hard to reach them at all. But creating a mobile-friendly website or an app for your publication is more than just flipping a switch. Between evaluating vendors, evaluating return on investment and reformatting content, the task can seem daunting. Hear from other editors who have braved this transition or embraced this philosophy from the start.

NEWSMAKER Challenge: Transfer of Public Lands 3:40 – 6 p.m.
Moderator: Mike Zlotnicki
Four major federal land management agencies oversee more than 605 million acres of public property which includes parks, forests, wildlife refuges and wilderness areas. The vast majority of these lands are in Western states, where a push is on to force federal transfer of millions of acres to state governments. Can states do a better job as environmental stewards and managers of natural resources? What would be the potential economic benefits – or losses – if a transfer were to happen?

Outdoor Food Writing 4:30 – 5:10 p.m.
Speakers: Susan Ebert, Hank Shaw
Locavores, foraging, farm-to-table, slow food. The movements within the food industry continue to increase crossover with the outdoor realm and the audience for game and foraging recipes is rapidly expanding beyond just traditional outdoor readers. Hear from two successful cookbook authors who have made a name for themselves combining their knowledge of cooking, hunting and fishing.

Sound Stories 5:20 – 6 p.m.
Speaker: Jennifer Jerrett
Start this session with deep listening and learn how to create a sense of place through sound. Perfect for anyone interested in multimedia production or those who want to bring the intimate feel of radio to their writing, this session will help you think like a podcaster by highlighting techniques in field recording, mixing, and structuring sound-rich stories that can take people places they’ve never been.

Welcome Dinner at ZooMontana 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.
Sponsored by Visit Billings and Visit Southeast Montana
As Montana’s only zoo and botanical park, ZooMontana focuses on wildlife native to Montana, the Rockies, and other cold temperature regions at or above the 45th Parallel. Indoor habitats include animals from around the world. Canyon Creek runs through the center of the zoo’s grounds, creating a natural and tranquil park-like setting.

Hospitality Suites 9 – 11:30+ p.m.

Roll n Run 6 a.m.
Meet in the hotel lobby
You are invited to run with other fast feet rather than run solo in a new city. This is a no-fuss out and back run with start and finish in the hotel lobby. Run a 5k or a 10k depending on how your head feels at 6 a.m.

Registration (Daily) 7 a.m. – 6 p.m.

3-Day Displays (Daily) 7 a.m. – 6 p.m.

EIC Winners Showroom (Daily) 7 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Press Room (Daily) 7 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Sponsored by Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A.

Coffee Break Station (Daily) 7 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Sponsored by Mississippi Tourism

Breakfast 7:15 – 8 a.m.
Sponsored by Migratory Bird Joint Ventures

NEWSMAKER Challenge: Parks & Wreck 8:15 – 9:15 a.m.
Speakers: Marcia Argust, Pew Charitable Trusts; Domenic Bravo, National Association of State Parks Directors; Kristen Brengel, National Parks Conservation Association; Superintendent Dan Wenk, Yellowstone National Park
As the National Park Service celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2016, there’s a behind-the-scenes story that affects not only the park service but all four federal land management agencies – deferred maintenance. A report prepared last year for Congress estimates the combined deferred maintenance for the park service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and Forest Service at somewhere between $16.3 and $21.4 billion. State park systems, collectively covering 18 million acres at more than 10,200 sites, face their own set of challenges. Roads, bridges, trails, buildings, dams and water systems are in need of repair. What’s being done to fix them?

Book Publishing: Many Choices, Finding the Right Fit 8:15 – 9:15 a.m.
Speakers: Riley Blott, FriesenPress; Don Gorman, Rocky Mountain Books; Mike Grandmaison; David Frank, Western Sporting
Moderator: Doug Symington, Friesens Corp
From traditional publishing to self-publishing to specialty publishing, evaluating all your options to publish your work can be a daunting task. Hear from publishers and experienced authors to help you understand the options and explain the process of taking your manuscript from idea to finished product.

NEWSMAKER Challenge: Invasive Species & Wildlife Diseases 9:30 – 10:30 a.m.
Speakers: Dave Sweet, Trout Unlimited; John Goss, Asian Carp projects coordinator; Anne Kinsinger, USGS
There are an estimated 50,000 non-native plant and animal species in the United States. Cheatgrass, salt cedar, spruce aphid and introduced trout species are major concerns in the Rocky Mountain region. Elsewhere, it’s everything from Asian carp to zebra mussels. Couple that with Avian influenza, chronic wasting disease, and rabies, and the cost to combat or even contain, invasive species and wildlife diseases becomes astronomical.

Accounting for Writers 9:30 – 10:30 a.m.
Speaker: John Allen, CPA
If you make money as a freelance writer, you need to know the difference between an allowable expense and an unallowable expense in the eyes of the IRS. This session will cover common expenses that freelance writers are able to deduct, the best ways to track your income and expenses, and how to organize everything when it comes time to file your taxes.

NEWSMAKER Challenge: Urban Wildlife Conflicts 10:45 – 11:25 a.m.
Speakers: Stephen Kendrot, USDA APHIS; Officer Mark Lerum, City of Helena; Representative, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks
It’s one thing to see a coyote loping across a prairie or a white-tailed deer emerging from the woods. It’s quite different when they show up in your backyard. More and more, the interface between urban and wild settings is not only narrowing, but overlapping. Bears in the backyard, deer in the driveway, geese in the garden and many other wild animals roaming areas humans inhabit, create a new dynamic for resource managers, local governments and citizens.

Writing for Brands/Content Marketing 10:45 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.
Moderator: Mark Kelly
Speakers: A.J. DeRosa, Dangerous Cow Publishing; Ryan Galloway, Contently; Jill Shinn, MERCURYcsc; Alex Tenenbaum, Sitka Insight
Brands increasingly try to fashion a unique identity to connect not just with the customers’ product needs but with their lifestyle. This creates a need for well-written copy and an opportunity for writers. Whether they need long-form essays or short blog posts, many brands are willing to pay higher than most magazines for quality content, but it may also come with unique requirements such as SEO techniques. Writers can work with brands directly or through content-marketing or public relations firms to tap into this growing market.

NEWSMAKER Solutions: Progress Through Partnerships 11:35 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.
Speakers: Dan Casey, Migratory Birds Joint Venture; Donald F. McKenzie, National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative; Ken Williams, The Wildlife Society
More and more, conservation advocates find it difficult if not impossible to go it alone. Partnerships have become critical to progress. Migratory Bird Joint Ventures, The Wildlife Society and the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative will discuss how collaborative efforts between governments, nongovernmental organizations and private interests aimed at achieve broader success than if they acted alone.

Lunch 12:30 – 1:15 p.m.
Sponsored by Nissan North America

Water Demo Day 1:30 – 4:30 p.m.
Montana Audubon Conservation Education Center
Dip your toes in the water, paddle around in a kayak or cast a line with our fishing and watercraft manufacturers. See the newest outdoor gear and learn about the latest trends for getting people out on the water.

Natural History Walk 1:30 – 2:30 p.m.
Meet at Montana Audubon Conservation Education Center

Silent Auction 5 p.m. – 9 p.m.

OWAA Membership Meeting 5 – 6:15 p.m.
OWAA members are invited to a business meeting hosted by OWAA board president Lisa Densmore Ballard and executive director Tom Sadler. Learn how OWAA has been working for you and its short-term and long-term goals. Voice your feedback in this open forum for general discussion and suggestions.

EIC Awards Dinner & Party 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.
Sponsored by The Wilderness Society

Celebrate our members’ best work from the past year at this fun and entertaining show. After enjoying an audio-video presentation of the award-winners’ work, we’ll eat, drink and dance the night away to live local music!

Hospitality Suites 9 – 11:30+ p.m.

Registration (Daily) 7 a.m. – 6 p.m.

3-Day Displays (Daily) 7 a.m. – 6 p.m.

EIC Winners Showroom (Daily) 7 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Press Room (Daily) 7 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Sponsored by Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A.

Coffee Break Station (Daily) 7 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Sponsored by Mississippi Tourism

Silent Auction 7 a.m. – 5 p.m.

OWAA Board Meeting 7 – 8 a.m.

Breakfast 7:15 – 8 a.m.

Buses begin for Breakout Day 8:10 a.m.
Leave from the Radisson Hotel Billings

Breakout Day 8:30 a.m. – Noon
Blue Creek Sport Shooting Complex and Preserve
Learn about and test the latest firearms and outdoor gear from OWAA supporters and local companies. Visit with outdoor destination representatives, take a test drive or brush up on the most recent happenings with our outdoor organizations. And don’t forget to grab your contest score sheet and track points for the Outdoor Skills Contest!

Section meetings 9 – 11 a.m.
Blue Creek Sport Shooting Complex and Preserve

Lunch at Breakout Day Noon – 12:45 p.m.
Blue Creek Sport Shooting Complex and Preserve
Sponsored by National Shooting Sports Foundation

Solutions: New Ideas for Conservation Funding 1:30 – 3 p.m.
Speakers: Dave Chadwick, Montana Wildlife Federation; Matt Dunfee, Wildlife Management Institute; Mark Humpoert, Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies; Cailin O’Brien-Feeney, Outdoor Industry Association; Jeff Sposito, 2% for Conservation
Moderator: Land Tawney, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers
The first newsmaker session asked if traditional conservation funding models are broken. If the answer is “yes,” what happens next? This closing session will bring the topic full circle with an in-depth discussion of various proposals aimed at finding solutions that will sustain conservation into the future.

Leading Photo Safaris 1:30 – 2:10 p.m.
Speakers: Colleen Miniuk-Sperry; Tom Ulrich
Have camera, will travel? While leading photo trips can seem like the perfect plan to check-off your own photo bucket list, don’t forget to factor in the responsibilities of travel planning, insurance, nuances of international travel, marketing and more in addition to instructing. Even with the added responsibility, leading photo workshops or international trips can be a flexible, exciting and profitable way to make a living.

Social Media as Reporting Tool 2:20 – 3 p.m.
Speakers: Mark Freeman, (Medford) Mail Tribune; Jessica Hilgendorf, KULR-TV/Billings; Melinda Lee, KULR-TV/Billings
From finding sources and story material to live-posting breaking events and polling followers, social media can be used for more than just reposting content and generating hits for reporters and news outlets. Find out more about how social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter can be used as a tool on the job.

Supporting Group Business Meeting 3:15 – 4:15 p.m.
Employees of supporting groups, agencies and businesses are invited to a business meeting hosted by the supporting group liaison to the board Katie McKalip and OWAA executive director Tom Sadler. An open forum for general discussion and suggestions is welcome.

Meet/Ask the Editors 3:15 – 5:15 p.m.
Moderator: Kelsey Dayton
Speakers: Amy Bulger, Wyoming Wildlife; Will Harmon, Far Country Press; Sam Lungren, Backcountry Journal; Andrew McKean, Outdoor Life; Eric Seeger. Nature Conservancy Magazine; Matt Soberg, Ruffed Grouse Society; Alex Tenenbaum, Sitka Insight
Hear book publishers and acquisitions editors of outdoors publications discuss their editorial needs and how to sell your work. Then we will open the floor to questions from you! This Q&A style session will be followed by a Meet & Greet to meet our panel of editors and publishers face-to-face. Clip boxes will be available for you to leave samples for any of our editors or publishers.

Photo Scavenger Hunt Critique 5:30 – 6:30 p.m.
Sponsored by Hunt’s Photo and Video

Judges: Michael Furtman, Colleen Miniuk-Sperry
Win cash and prizes from behind the lens! All attending members are encouraged to enter this fun contest in which professional and amateur photographers submit just one frame of each of the five required subjects, forcing them to “get it right” on a tight deadline. Doubling as both the annual entertaining critique of scavenger hunt entries and a general photo critique, two of OWAA’s top photographers tell us what they like and didn’t like about each photo helping everyone improve their photography skills.

Circle of Chiefs Meeting 5:15 – 6 p.m.

Past President’s Meeting 6 – 6:45 p.m.

Honorary Awards Banquet 7 – 9 p.m.
(Coat and tie recommended.)
We will close conference by recognizing members for their highest professional achievements and exceptional commitment to OWAA. At this special event, we name recipients of the J. Hammond Brown Award for devoted service to OWAA; the Excellence in Craft Award for continued excellence in one’s career; the Jade of Chiefs Award for conservation; the Outstanding Board Member Award; and the Jackie Pfeiffer Memorial Award for goodwill, generosity and kindness. These awards represent the highest honors of OWAA.

Left Over Luau 9:30+ p.m.
Join your fellow OWAAers as we wrap up another conference with a casual gathering for fun and friendship. Bring a bottle of wine, your beverage of choice or hospitality suite leftovers to share.

© Outdoor Writers Association of America