Resilience, the Future, and Prairie Fire: 2018 Conference Highlights

2018 Conference Highlights
October 23-25, 2018 – Indiana Memorial Union – Bloomington, Indiana
The 45th Natural Areas Conference was something of a homecoming for our organization, since the historical roots of NAA are in the Midwest. But even as this event revisited conference traditions like Prairie Fire, it was focused on the future of natural areas and the people who steward them.

The theme for 2018 was Building Resilience: the Future of Natural Areas, and the importance of resilience wasn’t just a theme for the programming. Executive Director Lisa Smith invoked resilience in the Conference Welcome as an example of a quality that natural areas professionals display every day – especially in these challenging times.
Access follow-up materials for the 2018 Natural Areas Conference, including all abstracts, a full schedule, video of the Awards Dinner and Closing Plenary, and a slideshow from the event.
The NAA Awards are given out during the Awards Dinner at the conference each year, and perspective on the past and future were central themes in the acceptance speeches of both the Fell and Becker award winners. Our 2018 Carl N. Becker Stewardship Award recipient, Joyce Bender, gave an inspiring speech on her experience being one of the few women stewarding land at the beginning of her career, highlighting the way the field has become more inclusive. The George B. Fell Award recipient, William “Bill” Weeks, the Director of the Conservation Law Center in Bloomington, Indiana, offered a detailed overview of how his approach to making deals helped him preserve thousands of acres of land during his career.
Access video of both acceptance speeches.
Our Closing Plenary speakers, former National Park Service Chief Jon Jarvis and his head scientist Dr. Gary Machlis, spoke to a standing-room-only crowd in the Indiana Memorial Union’s soaring Alumni Hall during the closing event of the conference, October 25. They discussed the key strategies they shared in their book The Future of Conservation in America: A Chart for Rough Water, then engaged in an intense Q&A session with attendees and Indiana University students.

Access video of this motivating session.
NAA was also pleased to welcome writer Arthur Melville Pearson, author of a recent biography of NAA founder George Fell: Force of Nature: George Fell, Founder of the Natural Areas Movement. Arthur was a guest speaker for our NAA Award Dinner on October 24 and his presentation was a big hit.
Access video of Arthur Melville Pearson’s presentation on conservation legend George Fell.
After a two-year hiatus, the NAA tradition of Prairie Fire returned to the conference. Prairie Fire is part auction and part friendly rivalry. People form teams and bid during the Awards Dinner for the honor of seeing their team name engraved on the ceremonial Drip Torch - plus all the fixings for “Prairie Fire” - a bottle of tequila, limes, salt, and hot sauce. This year’s raucous but joyful competition, overseen by Auctioneer and former NAA President Randy Nyboer, brought in the largest amount ever for the event: more than $4,000. Every penny goes to help NAA and support our programming for the natural areas professional community.

The Call for Proposals for the 2019 Natural Areas Conference, October 8-10 in Pittsburgh, PA is now open. The theme is At the Water's Edge - Managing Our Land and Water in a Changing Landscape. Check out our 2019 video conference invitation to learn more about the event, and watch for more information soon!
Some stats from NAC18:
  • 311: Attendees
  • 7: # of Field Workshops
  • 5: # of ID Workshops
  • 4,000+: dollars raised during Prairie Fire


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