The Conservation Learning Summit (CLS), held in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, November 4-6, 2005, brought together 80 representatives from government agencies, academia, non-governmental organizations, and business to discuss issues of extreme relevance to the CLS logofuture of conservation. The Summit provided a forum for the launching of ideas among many divergent groups of people. The agenda was crafted to result in the formulation of priorities for future activities that would revitalize conservation as a career choice and a habit of mind. The priorities set forth were agreed upon by consensus and were committed to by the Summit participants. In addition, individuals made commitments on behalf of themselves and their organizations.

The recommended actions stemming from the Summit provided the attending organizations, as well as other organizations that are struggling with similar issues, a resource for their strategic planning. The action priorities and individual commitments also provide support for larger plans to be picked up by partner organizations and carried further. This report captures a moment in time when people came together in a spirit of cooperation and agreed upon a common set of principles and priority actions. The two major focus questions for the Summit:

  1. How do we get more people into the natural resource/conservation professions?
  2. How do we get more people to care about conservation of natural resources?

Participants engaged in large group sessions with major speakers alternating with home-base breakout groups to establish priorities and commitments for future actions. The final set of breakout groups was organized around the issues deemed, by consensus, to be the most critical for future activities. See the Summit proceedings for more information.

Inspired by Louv’s book, organizers announced the formation of a new campaign to Leave No Child Inside and cited Louv’s statement, “Western society is sending an unintended message to children: nature is the past, electronics are the future and the bogeyman lives in the woods. This script is delivered in schools, families, even organizations devoted to the outdoors and codified into the legal and regulatory structures of many of our communities. Healing the broken bond between our young and nature is in our self-interest, not only because aesthetics or justice demand it, but also because our mental, physical, and spiritual health depend upon it. So does the health of the earth. Conservation-oriented groups are beginning to realize that a generation that has had little or no personal connection to nature is unlikely to produce passionate stewards of the earth.”

Leading representatives of the nation’s largest conservation organizations, senior officials in US federal agencies, deans of colleges and universities, business leaders and government officials embraced the purpose and vision of this new campaign.

Organizations represented at this event included the Foundation for Our Future, National Park Foundation, National Park Service, USDA Forest Service, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Children and Nature Network, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Hawksong Associates, Global Environmental Technologies Foundation, USDA Cooperative State Research Education and Extension Service, Council of Environmental Deans and Directors, National Conservation Training Center, World Conservation Union (IUCN-CEC), Morris K. Udall Foundation, Funmeister Publishing, Paget Films, EarthEcho International, Media and Policy Center Foundation, Sierra Club, and the North American Association for Environmental Education.