Wildlife Tourism for Tomorrow (WTFT), The WYldlife Fund, and the University of Wyoming (UW) are excited to announce the first annual Summer Ambassadors Program. This program came to life through a successful meeting between Taylor Phillips, founder of WTFT; Chris McBarnes, president of The WYldlife Fund; and Dr. Jacob Hochard, professor of Conservation Economics at UW’s Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources. During the meeting, Dr. Hochard recognized the momentous importance of WTFT’s mission, stating that wildlife conservation in the United States is “usually viewed from a top-down perspective through the collection of hunting tags and licenses, taxing hunters, etc. Wildlife Tourism for Tomorrow, on the other hand, is a bottom-up approach, requiring tremendous groundwork, logistic work, coordination work, and relationship-building.”
Clockwise, beginning from top left: Chris McBarnes, president of The WYldlife Fund; Dr. Jacob Hochard, professor of Conservation Economics at UW’s Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources; Taylor Phillips, founder of WTFT.
The goal of this new ambassador program is to have university students take on the this groundwork. Four students, spread across the state of Wyoming, will work remotely from their home communities to build relationships between WTFT and local small businesses in the outdoor recreation, tourism, and hospitality industries. Together, these small business and WTFT partnerships will fund projects across the state that seek to conserve Wyoming’s wildlife. Summer ambassadors will also be enrolled as research assistants with Dr. Hochard and meet weekly to discuss progressive approaches to bottom-up conservation finance in Wyoming.
When asked about her interest in this program, one prospective ambassador, Emma Vandenburg, said, “This position excites me because it’s cool to be at the ground level and see if this method of conservation funding grows to other states.” There is tremendous potential for WTFT’s mission to spread to other states, especially with WTFT already laying the foundation. The future of wildlife conservation is bright!
The ten-week program will begin in early June, and ambassadors are expected to commit to 10 hours of work a week. They have the freedom and independence to make their own schedules, and they will be offered a stipend of $2,500. The hands-on research assistance experience ambassadors will gain will give them the tools needed to explore careers in conservation economics, tourism, and hospitality, and there is potential for future growth with WTFT and The WYldlife Fund.
The creation of this new program is further pushing WTFT into the spotlight. Founded only one year ago, in March 2021, WTFT has already donated over $100,000 to wildlife conservation projects, and has the full support of Wyoming’s Governor Gordon. We are seeing tremendous growth, and we are thrilled about the opportunity to get the next generation of conservationists involved through this ambassador program.