Association of State Wetland Managers - Protecting the Nation's Wetlands.

The Wetland Wanderer: Working Internationally to Protect Wetlands that Support International Flyways

by Brenda Zollitsch, Policy Analyst

The Association of State Wetland Managers is a partner in Wetland Link International (WLI), an international support network for organizations delivering education and engagement activities at wetland centers across the globe.  I serve as ASWM’s representative to the WLI’s Americas Network, joining in the Network’s effort to connect nature’s transcontinental flyways in ways that transcend traditional governmental boundaries.  In this week’s blog, I thought I would introduce you to WLI and its Americas Network, sharing with you about the interesting and valued contributions they make to wetlands protection around the world and encourage you to learn more about how you can participate.

What does Wetland Link International (WLI) do?

wlib031116As an umbrella international network, Wetland Link International works to advocate for, and assist in, the development of new wetland education centers and their associated programs throughout the world.  Formed in 1991, WLI works to improve the effectiveness of operations at wetland education centers through sharing, training and expertise exchange.  It also lobbies for the greater inclusion of Communication, Education, Participation and Awareness (CEPA) programs within wetlands and related conservation initiatives/instruments and supports the development of frameworks for subsequent implementation at national, regional and global levels.  Key rallying themes for WLI sites include working on invasive species, migratory bird issues, climate change and endangered species, all while committing to the wise use of wetlands.  WLI runs campaigns throughout the year to coordinate wetland conservation messages.

Who is part of WLI?

WLI functions primarily on a regional level, with connections (networks) at the continental scale.  The network has more than 300 individual members worldwide.  WLI membership comes from around the globe, with 21 wetland centers in Africa, 29 across North America (US and Canada), 59 in South America, 85 centers in Asia, 94 in Europe, and 26 from the Oceania region.  The WLI network is endorsed by the international Ramsar Convention on Wetlands through a memorandum of understanding and coordinated by Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust in the United Kingdom.

twioutreach31116As a subgroup of the international network, the WLI Americas Network is a regional network coordinated by WLI that specifically links wetland centers across Canada, the United States and South America.  The regional network aims to facilitate collaborative learning across continents, opportunities to develop new activities, share activities/resources, and make key connections around the transcontinental flyway that bridges the continents.  The WLI Americas Network is guided by a steering group made up of local wetland center representatives, as well as regional and national staff from wetland-related initiatives.

What does a Wetland Center Get out of Membership in WLI and Participation in Its Regional Networks?

031116staffMember wetland centers generally view WLI as a resource for their staff.  Best practices are shared between centers and local activities can link at some level of coordinated activities at the international and regional level, if desired.  Participation in WLI can lead to better access to funding and resources for many centers.  Perhaps the most valued benefit is a sense of belonging.  The work of running a wetland center is arduous and specialized.  Wetland center staff members often have very few contacts with other similar centers or people working in positions with similar job functions.  Providing a support system across each continent and the globe allows for brainstorming, resource and idea sharing and general comradery.  Wetland Centers no longer feel as though they are operating in isolation.  And when there are questions about how to address a challenge or build on an opportunity, a network of colleagues is available to help inform these decisions.

WLI offers its international members and regional networks a range of services.  These include an international network website, email lists by region and core group, technology-supported meetings via skype and web forums, as well as newsletters and biennial regional meetings.  Web-based resources include an image library and education and learning resources.  Specific resources are targeted around support for visitor centers; learning and schools ; community involvement and volunteers; culture; and biodiversity and wetlands. WLI also provides members with guidance around communications and program evaluation.

Examples of WLI Member Centers

For example, a member of WLI and WLI’s regional Americas Network, The Wetlands Institute in New Jersey runs conservation programs based around horseshoe crab, migratory birds, monarch butterflies and shoreline management.  Their center includes a shop, café, staff and meeting rooms, conservation and research facilities, and a visitor center. Although the local population is highly seasonal, the center runs year-round activities and offers a great educational resource for local schools and winter enthusiasts.  The Wetland Institute has been an active partner in the network, sharing resources, supporting regional initiatives and learning from partners in other locations.  As part of WLI they recently took part in a recent US-Russia wetland center exchange, sending staff to Smolensk National Park in Russia and hosting a final conference.

Other examples of WLI members include the Hong Kong Wetland Park that opened in 2006 and hosts more than one million visitors per year; A site in Lake Naivasha, Kenya that hosts iconic species such as the hippopotamus and the fish eagle that is working to develop a new wetland center, and the Creston Valley Wetland Management Area, a huge site and seasonal center covering 7,000 hectares over a 20 kilometer valley.

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Can you become part of Wetlands Link International?

If you are reading this blog, you likely have an interest in supporting wetland work and wetland centers.  WLI is open to any organization, group or individual who is planning, designing or operating a place or places where there is interaction between people and wetlands, especially wetland life, with an educational and/or interpretative objective. Members may be government or non-government, professional or amateur, paid or voluntary.  Anyone that needs, or can share, practical advice on activities related to the core activities of WLI is welcome to join the network as a participant.  However, WLI only accepts members that are accessible to the public, not privately run organizations with no public engagement activities. Joining the network is free.

To explore membership in WLI, go to their website here.  In order to submit for membership, you will need to  submit a membership form and a WLI Members Agreement.

For More Information

Wetland Link International Website

Wetland Link International Leaflet

For WLI’s latest news, go here.

You can also follow the work of WLI on Twitter: @wetlandlink

Chris Rostron, the Head of Wetland Link International (based at WWT) invites you to connect with him with questions or interest in membership: Email at wli@wwt.org.uk; Telephone: +44 (0) 1453 891254.

 

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