The barn at Millport Conservancy as the snow started to fall on December 15, 2017. Photo by Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay/Marissa Spratley

On a cold and snowy day at the Millport Conservancy in Lititz, Pennsylvania over 80 sportsmen and conservation professionals alike gathered for a day of information sharing, networking, and brainstorming. The day started out a little brisk, as we fought a broken heater and a cold wind coming in – but that did not deter our hardy group! We bundled up, grabbed some hot coffee, and prepared for the day of learning and networking ahead.

Amy Wolfe, Trout Unlimited, talks about making progress for coldwater habitat. Photo by Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay/Marissa Spratley

Our keynote speakers, Amy Wolfe from Trout Unlimited and Roger Rohrer from local R Farm, kicked off our day by talking about some of the work they are doing to restore our local waterways and habitats for fish, wildlife, and game. The theme interwoven into both of their presentations was partnership: learning how we can better work together to accomplish more for cleaner and healthier lands and waters, and all the wildlife that live there.

Over 80 attendees gathered as we started the Project Success Panel. Photo by Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay/Marissa Spratley

Next, our Project Success Panel offered stories about the successes they’ve had when facilitating partnerships between sportsmen and conservation professionals. John Taucher from PA Game Commission, Jim Feaga from Ducks Unlimited, and Mark Thomas from Habitat Forever/U.S.F.W.S. talked about their work within their organizations to restore clean water and healthy habitats to Pennsylvania. After our speakers had a chance to answer some questions, we broke off into small groups to talk about some of the successes and challenges we’ve had when trying to start restoration projects in our own communities. Some of the common successes were partnerships, peer-to-peer sharing, inter-agency coordination, and good community involvement. Some of the challenges that were seen across the board were maintenance, advertising of resources, permitting, staffing needs, technical training, and implementation strategies.

Sportsmen gather closely around a local stream to keep an eye out for trout on the restoration tour. Photo by Chesapeake Bay Program/Caitlyn Johnstone

After lunch, everyone bundled up and headed out into the snow to enjoy a refreshing walk around Millport Conservancy for a restoration project tour, led by Greg Wilson. The group of sportsmen were in delight over deer and trout potential at a local stream.

In the afternoon, we heard from local government officials, including Mayor Leo Lutz of Columbia, PA and Dan Zimmerman, Manager of Warwick Township. Their presentations echoed earlier talks, as they again spoke about how crucial partnership is to the work that we are doing to restore our lands and rivers.

As we moved into our Restoration for Wildlife section, the day took the true form a Sportsmen’s Forum when a surprise guest joined us — a bat flew from the rafters in the ceiling and dove down into the audience, narrowly missing our presenter! The audience, full of hunters and fishers, didn’t mind our guest. In fact, by the time we were able to steer the bat out of the room, the whole crowd was hooting and hollering at our success.

To bring our day full circle, a few different attendees presented about resources that are available for sportsmen and conservation professionals to get more work done. Check out our list of resources here. We wrapped up with some overarching themes of the day, and then went through some take-aways we learned.

Overall, the day was full of positive energy, great conversations, and future partnerships! We look forward to seeing what other opportunities this network creates.