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By Jame Schaefer, posted on December 14, 2016

RCBWG Releases Summary of Best Practices Survey on Engaging Faith Communities

SCB's Religion and Conservation Biology Working Group (RCBWG) released a summary of the its Best Practices Survey of SCB members on engaging faith communities. 

Conducted on behalf of RCBWG from May 31-September 10, the results of this survey underscore the benefits to conserving biological diversity when researchers and practitioners relate positively to faith leaders and communities. 

Respondents to the survey also shared their approaches to engaging leaders and members of faith communities in ways that might be helpful to other SCB members. Societal support for conservation has become increasingly vital for approval, collaboration, and advocacy of scientific solutions aimed at mitigating threats to the loss of biological diversity on the land and in the water. Results of the survey point to religious and native faith communities as allies in this quest. 

Prepared by Jame Schaefer (Marquette University) and Susan Higgins (Center for Large Landscape Conservation) who serve on the RCBWG Board, “Best Practices Survey—Promising First Step toward Developing Guidelines” provides an overview of the responses to ten questions submitted by thirty-nine SCB members who have engaged leaders and members of faith communities in conservation projects. The faith communities represent the major world religions--Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism--and a diversity of native spiritualities including Australian Aborigine and Native American. 

The projects on which SCB members reported occurred on all continents except Antarctica. Among the foci are aging polar bears, bison, climate change, coral rehabilitation, fish, iguana, kangaroo, rattlesnakes, terrestrial vertebrates, wildlife used for bush meat, forest management and restoration, restoration of rivers, and protective management of shrines and sacred places. 

The Best Practices Survey was launched by the RCBWG as the first step of the three-year Best Practices Project aimed at producing guidelines for SCB members to consider when planning and conducting conservation research and application. During the second step proposed for ICCB 2017, the successful practices of some SCB members who participated in the survey will be highlighted in a symposium followed by a workshop during which best practices guidelines will be drafted. They will be refined subsequently, processed through several iterations, and presented to the SCB Board of Governors for recommending to SCB members. 

Established in 2007, the RCBWG focuses on strengthening dialogue between biological conservation and faith communities and promoting within the SCB an awareness of the importance of their collaboration. The working group has engaged in a variety of activities including collaborative research on religious practices that affect biological diversity, sponsoring symposia at ICCBs and regional congresses to highlight projects in which SCB members have engaged faith communities, and the three-year Best Practices Project. During ICCB 2017, the RCBWG will be presenting the first Assisi Award to a faith community that has demonstrated a commitment to biological conservation.

Contact Jame Schaefer and/or Sue Higgins for additional information about the Best Practices Survey and Project.