The Center for Conservation Excellence: What is it?
Updated: Jun 27
Colloquially known in America today as the “conservation industry,” it has sustained an interconnected relationship with legislative decisions, public policy, and public opinion since the late 1800s. If a favorable combination of scientific fact and public opinion are met, new legislation may surface which opens opportunities to advance the efforts of wildlife conservation. The alternative is also true, and represents a challenge facing the efforts of conservationists in America today.
To both optimize and protect conservation efforts, the Center for Conservation Excellence was born. Housed under the National Wild Turkey Federation, and with support from key conservation organizations such as the National Rifle Association and Association for Fish and Wildlife Agencies, the Center’s mission is to educate students at the collegiate and graduate levels, as well as practicing professionals in the conservation field as to the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, threats to modern conservation efforts, the animal rights movement, and much more. This is incredibly important, as decisions based on the court of public opinion in lieu of sound science and appropriate wildlife management tools are influencing how the public views wildlife. The foundational steps of Center include three main components: 1) undergraduate and graduate level education; 2) post-graduate and supplemental education; and 3) professional opportunities.
STEP 1: UNDERGRADUATE & GRADUATE LEVEL EDUCATION
The first step in providing conservation education is to incorporate curriculums with the Center’s courses- Wildlife Law and Legal Issues with Energy Development and Wildlife. The Center has perfected these syllabi after several years of these courses being taught at Michigan State University College of Law. In light of COVID and the movement to online or hybrid teaching, the syllabi and assignments have been modified to fit these changes.
To maximize the Center’s ability to reach the largest number of students, the steady addition of Wildlife Law and/or Wildlife Policy courses in new colleges is imperative. The concept of education in Wildlife Law/Policy is not limited to law or pre-law curriculums; there are existing curriculums that allow for crossover between Law Colleges and, for example, Master’s Programs in programs related to Natural Resources or Conservation Policy.
STEP 2: POST GRADUATE & SUPPLEMENTAL EDUCATION
Next, the Center will continue educating or reach those who are new to the conservation industry with additional educational outlets: 1) educational videos on introductory topics of wildlife law and 2) continuing legal education seminars on conservation law.
The short educational videos on introductory topics of wildlife law are coming soon and will be shared across the Center’s website, social media platforms, and more. Additionally, these videos will be shared directly with field staff, student organizations, conservation clubs, State Bar Associations, and more. These videos will cover topics such as the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, the Public Trust Doctrine, State and Federal Jurisdiction, Animal Welfare v. Animal Rights, and constitutional rights to hunt and fish.
Second is the Continuing Legal Education Seminar on Conservation Law. The Center offers an online, pre-recorded seminar to educate current and future practicing attorneys and judges on the realities of wildlife law and the applicable statutes that regulate it- as opposed to the court of public opinion. Topics covered in this seminar will include: jurisdiction, wildlife authority, public trust, constitutional right to hunt, animal welfare, international law, and ethics.
STEP 3: PROFESSIONAL OPPORTUNITIES
The final foundational piece of the Center’s mission is a practical one- to help students and professionals find conservation-based internships and careers. Students looking to begin their careers in law and public policy and the schools that try to appeal to these individuals are interested in both internships and externships that increase a student’s chance of success once they graduate. The growing list of conservation industry partners contributing to the Program are interested in helping create well-trained professionals that will eventually give back with their expertise and passion by embracing their new education and experiences.
Recent law students have had this to say about their internships with the Center and about their careers in conservation law:
My externship with the National Wild Turkey Federation's Center for Conservation Excellence was excellent and provided an insight into topics not generally covered in law school courses, such as typical issues presented to non-profits and conservation organizations, while also providing real-world application of concepts covered in courses. Overall, I had a great experience and found the externship to be more useful after graduation than any elective course I could have taken.
-Alexander Yde, Wisconsin
I didn't realize the scope of conservation, and more specifically, conservation law, until I reached out to Professor Frampton. Now that I have had the opportunity to learn from the [Center for Conservation Excellence] and complete a summer internship, I'm excited to explore conservation law with my new foundation of knowledge!
-Darcy Delligatti, West Virginia
I came to the realization that the idea I had in my head of what my career might be as I entered law school was subject to change, and that I would be happiest if I took the steps to position myself to work in conservation: a field that I truly care about and am excited to make a difference in.
-Robert Matthews, Michigan
If you are interested in helping the Center for Conservation Excellence to place the Wildlife Law
course curriculum in additional law colleges, partnering on a Conservation Law Seminar with
your State Bar Association, or helping to place students/recent graduates in legal conservation
positions, please contact us today!