Finding the future at OWAA’s conference: Billings, Montana, July 16-18 2016

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Do a Google search on “finding the future” and you will get more than 707 million results.
Who doesn’t want to know what’s next? “Finding the Future” also will be a central theme for the 2016 OWAA conference in Billings, Montana, but our search will be more narrowly focused than a couple million randomly related Internet entries.
We won’t be dusting off a crystal ball. We won’t be analyzing tea leaves or Tarot cards and we won’t engage in palm reading (although another Google search will show there are a few palmistry experts and psychics in Billings, but you’re on your own finding them).
Instead, conference sessions in Billings will dig deep into two areas — the future of conservation funding and the future of outdoor journalism.
Both tracks will take a three-pronged approach that touch on the history, challenges and ideas for moving forward. For example, conservation funding sessions will begin with thorough background on traditional programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund and Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Fund. Additional sessions will explore challenges that stretch current budgets, such as wildlife disease, invasive species, fire borrowing, maintenance backlogs for national parks, and more.
We’ll wrap up the track with a look at various proposals being offered to address the future of conservation funding.
On the topic of outdoor journalism, OWAA members don’t need a primer on the history and challenges associated with our chosen field. We’re all well aware of the rapidly changing climate of today’s communications world. We’ve all seen — and in many instances experienced — the erosion and even elimination of markets for our work.
So, the “future of outdoor journalism” track will eschew nostalgia and focus on inspiration.
If you attended this year’s conference in Knoxville, you probably remember the Pechakucha session put on by OWAA’s Photo Section. It featured a series of fastpaced slide shows presented by different members on topics of their choosing.
We’re borrowing that framework to have OWAA members — and perhaps some non-members — present new ways they are finding to communicate the outdoor story. Presentations will explore crowdfunding, non-profit online news sites, multi-media collaborations, and more. We’re looking for volunteers, so email me at if you have something to share.
There will be plenty more on the Billings agenda, but these two themes — conservation funding and outdoor journalism – are aimed at giving conference attendees plenty of information and inspiration. ♦
— Phil Bloom, Conference Program Chair

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