Conference session spotlights: Newsmakers, craft improvement, business — we have it all

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OWAA’s annual conference brings together the best outdoor communicators in fields such as photography, writing, radio and media relations. It’s a chance to network, test products and explore a new region. But at the heart of conference is the sessions. We put together a conference program meant to help you improve your craft and business, as well as your under-standing of outdoor issues.We’ve got a jam-packed program this year. Below are a few highlights; for the full schedule, visit
These panels, comprised of experts representing a variety of views on the topic, provide story fodder for working journalists and a better understanding of current outdoor issues for everyone.

  • Are Traditional Conservation Funding Models Broken?

The “user pays” approach to funding fish, wildlife and public lands conservation is a familiar concept. But those models face increasing challenges. Are the traditional funding models broken? Should they be replaced?

  • Fire Borrowing

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 not 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 fuels for the next big wildfire.

  • Transfer of Public Lands

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?

  • Urban Wildlife Conflicts

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.

  • Parks & Wreck

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 federal land agencies 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?

  • Privatization of Wildlife

The North American model of conservation is built on seven key principles, the most notable being holding wildlife in public trust and prohibiting commercial hunting and sale of wildlife. The approach has been successful, but what happens when private owners of large land tracts begin charging fees to access their property for hunting or fishing for what is a publicly held resource? Will the common man get shut out if hunting becomes something only the rich can afford?

  • Invasive Species & Wildlife Diseases

There are an estimated 50,000 non-native plant and animal species in the United States ranging from cheatgrass, to 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 is astronomical.

  • New Ideas for Conservation Funding

If traditional conservation funding models are broken, what happens next? This session provides an in-depth discussion of various proposals aimed at finding solutions that will sustain conservation into the future.
Craft improvement
Whether you are new to your profession or a seasoned veteran, these sessions will help you learn and refine your skills.

  • The outdoor essay: Writing it. Selling it.

How should a writer develop an opinion so that it attracts readers? And before that, how does he sell it to an editor? Chris Madson, a veteran essayist, discusses the challenges involved in making essays pay.

  • Sound Stories

Learn how to create a sense of place through sound. This is 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

  • Mobile-friendly Websites and Apps for Magazines

Creating a mobile-friendly website or an app for your publication is more than just flipping a switch. Hear from editors who have braved this transition.
Business sessions
If only we could spend all our time outside taking pictures and writing about what we witness and experience. But sadly we have to pay the bills somehow. These sessions are designed to help you make a living doing what you love.

  • Writing for Trade, NGO and Agency Publications

Off-newsstand publications can be great additions to your freelance mix, often paying reasonable rates and reaching wide audiences. Hear from editors of these various outlets for tips on breaking into or forming lasting relationships within this market.

  • Everything You’ve Always Wanted to Know About Microsoft Excel

Wallow in spreadsheet heaven with a former Excel instructor/author and current Microsoftee. Dennis Pollett will cover a myriad of features, tips and topics for anyone using Excel at any experience level. Pollett will also have office hours during the conference, so bring your spreadsheets for some one-on-one troubleshooting.

  • Trends and Opportunities in Outdoor Journalism

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. Join our panelists as they share the creative ways they have been able to monetize their content or get their projects funded.

  • Book Publishing: Many Choices, Finding the Right Fit

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.

  • Accounting for Writers

If you make money as a freelancer, 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 in-come and expenses, and how to organize everything when it comes time to file your taxes.

  • Writing for Brands/Content Marketing

Brands increasingly try to fashion a unique identity to connect not just with the customers’ product needs, but with their lifestyles. This creates a need for well-written copy and an opportunity for writers. Many brands are willing to pay for quality content. Writers can work with brands directly or through content-marketing or public relations firms to tap into this growing market. ♦

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