FIELD CONFERENCES: AN EFFECTIVE TOOL FOR EDUCATING DECISION MAKERS
To address these needs, the New Mexico Bureau of Geology & Mineral Resources, following the lead of the Kansas Geological Survey, has run field conferences for decision makers for the past 4 years. Selected state and federal legislators, agency heads, educators, environmental group leaders, journalists, and other community leaders are invited to examine diverse geologic, hydrologic, natural resource, geologic hazard and environmental issues that affect the future of the state and its citizens. The primary objective is to present decision makers with the opportunity to learn first-hand about current opportunities, problems, and solutions concerning vital earth science issues in an informal outdoor setting. The data and interpretations we present are derived from current research by our agency, other state and federal agencies, and academia. The instructors are science and policy experts from many organizations who are carefully chosen for their ability to give credible, well-balanced, succinct, understandable and enthusiastic presentations. A heavily illustrated, full-color guidebook consisting of short, non-technical papers is prepared for each trip and is distributed gratis to participants and all legislators, and is supplied at cost to other interested parties.
The trips to date all have been quite successful -- they have generated editorials in newspapers, positively influenced legislative initiatives (particularly in the area of water supply), and spawned a field trip specifically for a legislative water committee. Despite those successes, our greatest challenge is to persuade a broader range of decision makers to invest their valuable time on our meetings. In the future, we hope to get the field conferences to be directly associated with specific legislative committee meetings.