During his 32-year career as a research biologist, fisheries management supervisor and Assistant Chief of Fisheries for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, Gilliland developed a national reputation as an advocate for angler involvement in fisheries decision-making. It earned him prestigious national awards from the American Fisheries Society and induction into its Fisheries Management Hall of Fame. The B.A.S.S. National Conservation Director since 2013, Gilliland is regarded as the voice of bass fishing on numerous national boards and councils, including the Reservoir Fisheries Habitat Partnership, the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies, the Sport Fishing and Boating Partnership Council, and the American Sportfishing Association’s Government Affairs Committee.
Contagious conservation -A pandemic we can live with
Gene Gilliland, Conservation Director, Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (B.A.S.S.)
As we begin to emerge from the Covid pandemic, we are also emerging from the largest increase in participation in outdoor activities that most of us have ever seen. Individuals and families flocked to lakes and rivers and parks and trails while they were not working at their regular jobs or at school. Boat ramps were packed even on weekdays. Parking lots spilled over. Campsites were full. Social distancing on hiking trails became a challenge! People avoided the highly contagious virus by staying socially distant but getting close to our natural world. They got a taste of what we all hold so dear. Many of them for the first time. And these were not all our traditional constituents. It was a much more diverse group – more youth, more women, more minorities. In short, it was the audience we have been courting for several years now through increased emphasis on R3 – recruitment, retention, and reactivation.
But recent surveys are showing that a good number of them are slipping away and dropping out as their lives slowly return to the new normal. Back to work. Back to school. So, what must we as the conservation community do to retain them? How do we encourage them to stay engaged in the outdoors? How do we make conservation – the wise use of our natural resources – relevant to them? How do we help build passion for enjoying the outdoors, increase the ranks of people who are willing to fight the fights necessary to protect those resources, and ensure that access is maintained for current and future generations? How do we connect their everyday lives with Nature and make conservation as contagious as the Delta Variant?