The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) has received the 2019 Workforce Diversity and Inclusion Award from the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (SEAFWA) at their annual meeting in Hilton Head, South Carolina this week. The Alabama agency was recognized for multiple efforts to engage racial minorities, women and people with disabilities.
ADCNR has shown exceptional leadership in working to diversify its workforce, an important challenge that must be faced to better serve people of all backgrounds into the future. Their work provides a valuable model for other fish and game agencies facing the same challenges across our nation.
“When you work with people that are doing great things in the community and making progress in an area which we all need to focus on, the best thing we can do is to support their efforts,” said Chris Blankenship, ADCNR Commissioner.
For five years, the agency has led the Alabama Collegiate Mentoring Program. This program gives minority students at Tuskegee, Troy, Alabama, Alabama A&M and Auburn universities hands-on experience in the field through internships and ride-along programs. The goal is to expose students to career opportunities in conservation science.
The agency also expanded public outreach to a broader demographic. It started a series of urban workshops to provide information and answer questions about wildlife concerns in urban areas. The workshop locations were chosen to engage minorities and more diverse audiences. The Department also produced Facebook Live events hosted by agency staff on topics ranging from hunting and hunter education to fisheries and wildlife conservation as well as employment opportunities.
The 2018-2019 hunting season marked the second year of Alabama’s Adult Mentored Hunting Program, which experienced a 200 percent increase in applicants over the previous year. Last season, the program provided hands-on education and opportunity for 137 people – up from 66 in 2017-2018. One quarter of all applicants were female and a fifth were minorities. Participants learned wildlife biology and ecology, hunting safety and skills, equipment, wild game cleaning and cooking, game laws and more. The program also provides opportunities for people with disabilities and maintains 20 accessible hunting sites with 233 permits issued last season.
Attracting and retaining a diverse workforce is a challenge for many organizations today. The Department has created two positions to address this issue. Additionally, ADCNR Conservation Enforcement Officers took part in 192 outreach and education events reaching 22,961 people in early 2019. The goal is to enhance state outreach, education and recruiting activities and strengthen partnerships with non-governmental organizations and communities.
The SEAFWA annual Diversity and Inclusion Award allows member agencies to learn from best practices implemented by other agencies, creating benchmarks of progress toward developing more inclusion among wildlife agencies across America. More information is on the SEAFWA website.