GWS2017: Plenary sessions

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Plenary sessions bring all conferees together to hear from dynamic speakers on an important topic.  GWS2017 kicks off with a plenary session on Monday morning, April 3, a second will be held on Tuesday morning, April 4, and Wednesday mornings, April 5.  Focus sessions will close out the afternoons of Wednesday, April 5, and Thursday, April 6.


Plenary I   •   Monday, April 3   •   8:00a–9:30a

Making Big Connections: The Future of Conservation on a Landscape Scale

  • Harvey Locke, Co-founder and Strategic Adviser, Yellowstone to Yukon (Y2Y) Initiative
  • Gary Tabor, Founder, Center for Large Landscape Conservation

    Co-founder and Strategic Advisor to the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative - See more at:
    Co-founder and Strategic Advisor to the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative - See more at:
    Co-founder and Strategic Advisor to the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative - See more at:

Linking protected areas with other conservation efforts, and then coordinating them across a vast extent of land, freshwater, and sea — this, for many thoughtful people, is the future of our work.  Advocates of "connectivity conservation" see such landscape-scale efforts as the only way to combat the decline of biodiversity, the erosion of cultural landscapes, and the ravages of climate change.  We'll kick off GWS2017 with an overview of connectivity conservation, where we stand today, where we are likely to go next, and what the prospects for success might be.


Harvey Locke

Harvey Locke is a recognized global leader in the field of parks, wilderness and large landscape conservation. He is a founder of the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiatibve, with the goal to create a continuous corridor for wildlife from Yellowstone National Park in the United States to the Yukon in Northern Canada. In 2013, he received the J.B. Harkin Medal for Conservation and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal and in 2014 he was awarded the Fred M. Packard Award for outstanding service to protected areas by the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas at the World Parks Congress in Sydney, Australia. Locke also received in 2014 the Gold Leaf Award from the Canadian Council on Ecological Areas for his lifetime of extraordinary commitment and vision to advance the cause of parks, wilderness, ecological integrity and landscape connectivity in North America and the world.


Gary Tabor

Dr. Gary M. Tabor is an ecologist and wildlife veterinarian based in Bozeman, Montana.  In 2007, Gary founded the Center for Large Landscape Conservation to help people and institutions make better land use decisions at the scale nature functions.  Gary has worked on behalf of large landscape conservation internationally for over 35 years with ten years of experience in Africa, South America and Australia and 12 years as a leader within the U.S. philanthropic community beginning with the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, the Henry P. Kendall Foundation, and finally the Yellowstone to Yukon Program Director for the Wilburforce Foundation. His work in philanthropy also includes the design of international conservation trusts for USAID, and the World Bank. Gary co-founded the Australia Environmental Grantmakers Association. Gary’s conservation achievements include the establishment of Kibale National Park in Uganda; establishment of the World Bank’s Mountain Gorilla Conservation Trust; co-founding the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative; pioneering the field of Conservation Medicine and EcoHealth; co-founding Patagonia Company’s Freedom to Roam wildlife corridor campaign; co-founding the Practitioners’ Network for Large Landscape Conservation and the Roundtable of the Crown of the Continent – recent winner of the inaugural climate adaptation award by the US National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy.  Gary is a Henry Luce Scholar and recipient of the Australian American Fulbright Scholar award in Climate Change. Gary is Chair of the World Commission on Protected Areas' new Connectivity Conservation Specialist Group.


Plenary II   •   Tuesday, April 4   •   8:00a–9:30a

Decolonizing Conservation

  • Jeff Corntassel, Professor and Director of Indigenous Governance, University of Victoria
  • Respondent: Elizabeth Nanticoke, Elder and member of Mohawk Women's Singing Society, Akwesasne Mohawk Nation

The concept of decolonization does not only refer to the historic global movement, furthered by the United Nations. following World War II, in which former colonies became independent states.  It also refers to the dismantling of entrenched attitudes and unexamined assumptions that serve to privilege powerful groups and their interests over others.  In this sense, the concept has been referred to as “the decolonizing of the mind.”

The connection of the idea of decolonization to parks, protected areas, and cultural sites is that the conservation of these areas has developed within the larger context of entrenched attitudes and unexamined assumptions that decolonization is challenging.  For example, decolonizing park science might involve not just using TEK (traditional ecological knowledge) to complement Western science, but in some cases to question how that scientific model is used.  Just as ubiquitous climate change and other human-caused change has prompted conservationists to rethink the goals and purpose of protected areas—and indeed the very idea of nature itself—“decolonizing conservation” calls on park professionals, communities and practitioners to reconsider the social and biocultural framework in which their work takes place. 


Jeff Corntassel

Jeff Corntassel (Cherokee Nation) received his Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Arizona in 1998, and is currently Associate Professor and Director of Indigenous Governance at the University of Victoria. Corntassel's research and teaching interests include sustainable self-determination and Indigenous political mobilization.  Jeff's research has been published in Alternatives, Decolonization, Human Rights Quarterly, and Social Science Journal.  Jeff's first book, entitled Forced Federalism: Contemporary Challenges to Indigenous Nationhood (2008, University of Oklahoma Press), examines how Indigenous nations in the U.S. have mobilized politically as they encounter new threats to their governance from state policymakers. His next book is an edited volume in collaboration with Native Hawaiian professors in Indigenous Politics at the University of Hawai’i, Manoa, and is entitled Everyday Acts of Resurgence: People, Places, Practices.


Elizabeth Nanticoke bio to come.


Plenary III   •   Wednesday, April 5   •   8:00a–9:30a

Natureful Cities for All

  • Timothy Beatley, Teresa Heinz Professor of Sustainable Communities, and Chair of the Department of Urban and Environmental Planning, School of Architecture at the University of Virginia
  • Audrey Peterman, President of Earthwise Productions Inc.; Author and activist

What if our cities were places where nature is front and center?  Where natural areas are in close proximity to large numbers of urbanites who value, protect and actively restore their biodiversity? Where there are abundant opportunities to be outside and to enjoy nature through strolling, hiking, bicycling, exploring?  Where all these benefits are available to everyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, income, or social status?

Drawing on E.O. Wilson's concept of biophilia (a inborn affinity for nature), Professor Tim Beatley has imagined and written about such biophilic, natureful cities.  In this session you will learn about what makes a city natureful, and then hear from one of America's foremost activists for inclusivity, Audrey Peterman, about what needs to be done to make sure our cities are full or nature for everyone.


Tim Beatley

Timothy Beatley is the Teresa Heinz Professor of Sustainable Communities, and Chair of the Department of Urban and Environmental Planning, School of Architecture at the University of Virginia, where he has taught for the last twenty-eight years.  Beatley is the author or co-author of more than fifteen books, including Biophilic Cities: Integrating Nature Into Urban Design and Planning, and most-recently Blue Urbanism: Connecting Oceans and Cities. Beatley also writes a column for Planning Magazine called Ever Green, which has appeared every other month since 2008, and is a regular contributor to the Nature of Cities collective blog. Beatley founded and directs the Biophilic Cities Project at UVA (, and recently helped to launch a global Biophilic Cities Network.  He also co-founder and co-director, with Reuben Rainey, of UVA’s Center for Design and Health, within the School of Architecture.  He has been the recipient of the All-University Teaching Award at UVA, and also received the Outstanding Faculty Award, the state’s highest award for faculty at its public universities (awarded by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia). Beatley holds a PhD in City and Regional Planning from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, an MA in Political Science from UNC, a Masters of Urban Planning from the University of Oregon, and a Bachelors of City Planning from UVA.


Audrey Peterman

Audrey Peterman is President of Earthwise Productions Inc., the environmental consulting firm she and her husband Frank founded in 1995 to help connect the public lands system to urban populations. She co-founded the Diverse Environmental Leaders Speakers Bureau ( in 2014 to provide one stop access to the breadth of talent in communities of color, including solo circumnavigators, mountaineers, authors and climate/lands experts. She blogs about the National Parks and public lands system at the Huffington Post, and is co-author of Legacy on the Land: A Black Couple Discovers Our National Inheritance and Tells Why Every American Should Care (2009.) Her travel guide to the national parks Our True Nature: Finding A Zest for Life in the National Park System, (2012) features 59 of 179 units she has visited. Mrs. Peterman’s repertoire includes the broad range of experience gained from serving on the boards of diverse entities including  the National Parks Conservation Association; the Association of Partners for Public Lands (renamed Public Lands Alliance) the National Parks Tourism Promotion Council; the advisory board of Delaware North Parks and Resorts concessionaires, and multiple community based organizations that she helped establish. Her passion for the public lands system and her determination to uphold their sacred place in our lives grows ever stronger.