About Natural Areas Conferences

The 2019 Natural Areas Conference will take place October 8-10, at the Pittsburgh Sheraton in Pittsburgh PA, and the 2020 Natural Areas Conference October 13-15 in Duluth, Minnesota!

The first Natural Areas Conference took place in October 1974—four years before the Natural Areas Association was founded—and was an informal gathering of just 26 people. Leaders of that group convened the first conference because they felt the need for a place for natural areas professionals to come together, support each other and exchange important information.

More than 40 years later, the Natural Areas Conference has evolved into the premier gathering for natural areas professionals, but the mission is still the same—to share the latest advances in stewardship and connect as a community.

Natural Areas Conferences always include:

  • Timely theme. Focus on an area of inquiry (such as responding to climate change, or successful collaborations) of crucial and timely importance to the profession.

  • Latest research. Speakers share their cutting-edge discoveries with attendees through presentations, symposia, panel discussions, posters and workshops.

  • Actionable information. Presenters offer strategies and tactics that they’ve used successfully in the field.

  • Inspiring plenary sessions. We invite leaders in our field to stimulate debate and encourage big-picture inquiry.

  • Hands-on workshops. Workshops can be half- or whole-day and focus on practical strategies and tactics.

  • Informative field trips. Learn first-hand about natural area issues in the region where the conference takes place, and explore the unique geography and biodiversity with local experts.

  • Networking events. The Awards dinner, the Membership Luncheon, the Poster Session and Reception, and the Student-Mentor networking lunch all offer participants the opportunity to form and strengthen relationships.

  • Robust student and young professional programming. Aside from the Student-Mentor Networking lunch and Poster Session, students can also attend the Keys to Conservation Careers session and take advantage of scholarships, prizes, and a special registration rate.

  • Participation in an engaging and supportive community. Members agree that what distinguishes our conference—and our organization—is the feeling of camaraderie, and the often lifelong friends attendees come away with.

  • Great location. The conference is located in a different place each year, and rotated to allow members in different parts of the country to showcase the outstanding natural areas in their region.

  • Great value. We know natural areas professionals—especially those just entering the field—don’t have unlimited budgets. We work to make our event as cost-efficient and affordable as possible, while providing all of the programming, content and events we always have.

Access video of our most recent plenary sessions:


         Awards Dinner Wednesday Oct. 24

  • Awards Dinner Address: Arthur Melville Pearson, “Force of Nature: George Fell, Founder of the Natural Areas Movement.”

  • Awards Dinner Awards Ceremony - winners of the Students' Paper and Poster Competition, as well as the Carl N. Becker Award winner, Joyce Bender and the George B. Fell Award winner, William Weeks.

  • Preview of the 2019 Natural Areas Conference, in Pittsburgh, PA and Prairie Fire Auction!

         Closing Plenary, Thursday, October 25

  • We host former Director of the National Park Service, Jonathan Jarvis, and Dr. Gary E. Machlis, as our Closing Plenary Speakers. Former Director Jarvis and Dr. Machlis are the co-authors of The Future of Conservation in America: A Chart for Rough Water.


          Opening Plenary Tuesday Oct. 12



Hugh Safford and Cliff Chapman, Natural Areas Conference 2015.

M. Sanjayan, Ph.D., Senior Scientist, Conservation Intl, speaker at the Natural Areas Conference 2015.

Past Natural Areas Conferences:

2017 Hilton Fort Collins, Fort Collins, Colorado
2016 UC Davis Conference Center, Davis, CA
2015 Little Rock Marriott, Little Rock, AR
2014 Crowne Plaza, Dayton, OH
2013 Holiday Inn Chicago Mart Plaza – Chicago, IL
2012 Norfolk Waterside Marriott Hotel and Conference Center – Norfolk, VA
2011 Florida State University Conference Center – Tallahassee, FL
2010 Tan-Tar-A Resort – Osage Beach, MO
2009 Hilton Hotel and Vancouver Conference Center – Vancouver, WA
2008 Doubletree Hotel Nashville-Downtown – Nashville, TN
2007 Cleveland Marriot Hotel at Key Center – Cleveland, OH
2006 Northern Arizona University – Flagstaff, AZ
2005 Cornhusker Hotel – Lincoln, NE
2004 Holiday Inn Mart Plaza Hotel – Chicago, IL
2003 Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center – Madison, WI
2002 Renaissance Asheville Hotel – Asheville, NC
2001 Radisson Resort at the Port – Cape Canaveral, FL
2000 Henry VIII Hotel – St. Louis, MO
1999 Holiday Inn City Center – Tucson, AZ
1998 Mission Point Resort – Mackinac Island, MI
1997 Doubletree Hotel and Conference Center – Portland, OR
1996 Pheasant Run Resort – St. Charles, IL
1995 University of Arkansas – Fayetteville, AR
1994 Palm Beach Garden Marriot Hotel – Palm Beach Garden, FL
1993 University of Maine – Orono, ME
1992 Indiana University – Bloomington, IN
1991 YMCA of the Rockies – Estes Park, CO
1990 Sheraton Hotel and Conference Center – Concord, CA
1989 Hyatt-Regency Hotel – Knoxville, TN
1988 State University of New York – Syracuse, NY
1987 Continental Regency Hotel – Peoria, IL
1986 YMCA of the Ozarks – Potosi, MO
1985 Camp Kern – Oregonia, OH
1984 University of Michigan Biological Station – Pellston, MI
1983 Natural Bridges Resort State Park – Slade, KY
1982 Wyalusing State Park – Prairie du Chien, WI
1981 Ozark Folk Center – Mountain View, AR
1980 Camp Wapsi-Y – Central City, IA
1979 Lyman Lodge – Excelsior, MN
1978 Babler Memorial State Park – Chesterfield, MO
1977 Bradford Woods – Martinsville, IN
1976 Starved Rock-Mathieson State Parks – Oglesby, IL
1975 Glen Helen Nature Preserve – Yellow Springs, OH
1974 Wyalusing State Park – Prairie du Chien, WI


Invest in the people who protect and manage our natural areas