Fundamentals of Western Conservation Leadership: Through the Looking Glass 2023-2024

This course will build the capacity of the western conservation community to collectively address complex wildlife management, natural resource, and landscape-scale challenges. We will create a looking glass through which a diverse set of perspectives examine, learn, and apply leadership practices to address the uncertainties found in western conservation issues, the rapid pace of change, and need for more cross-sector collaboration.

The course is uniquely designed to bring global and national leadership expertise to participants, strengthening understanding and application of learning in systems thinking, adaptive leadership, coalition building, and empowering others.

Course Dates

Session 1: October 15-20, 2023 (in-person)
Session 2: February 5-8, 2024 (virtual in zoom)
Session 3: May 12-16, 2024 (in-person)

Required team and coaching sessions between trainings

Western Conservation Leadership Development Program
Western Conservation Leadership Development Program


Custer State Park Resort, in the southern part of the Black Hills of South Dakota. Custer State Park is South Dakota’s first and largest state park, its history dates back to 1897. The park covers an area of over 71,000 acres of varied terrain including rolling prairie grasslands and rugged mountains, and is home to a herd of 1,500 bison. Elk, coyotes, mule deer, white tailed deer, mountain goats, prairie dogs, bighorn sheep, river otters, pronghorn, and cougars also inhabit the park. The park is known for its scenery, its scenic drives (Needles Highway and the wildlife loop), with views of the bison herd and prairie dog towns. We will be staying in the State Game Lodge. The nearest airport is Rapid City, South Dakota (39 miles).

Cost: $8,500/participant plus travel costs

Time Commitment: This course will require active participation in 12.5 days of in-person and virtual trainings as well as required meetings with coaches and team members; or the equivalent of a 20% commitment of work hours to create a meaningful experience. Participation in all aspects of the course is required to receive a certificate of completion. Applicants that are unable to devote their time and energy to the training are encouraged to consider other training dates or options.

Training includes:

  • 12.5 training days with renowned global and national experts in leadership development and conservation practice.
  • One-on-one and team-based coaching support to create an immersive learning experience.
  • Networking and capacity-building within a western leadership community.
  • Leadership development resources and materials for ongoing work.

Goals of the Course: 

  • Introduce participants to a shared leadership language, set of principles, and competencies;
  • Make progress on western conservation challenges by applying leadership principles through learning and practice;
  • Expand the personal capacity of participants to manage self, navigate uncertainty and conflict, and think politically to make progress on conservation challenges; and,
  • Empower participants to collaborate and build relationships across a diversity of perspectives.


  • Adaptive work centered on western conservation issues
  • Navigating conflict, resistance, and polarization on entrenched challenges
  • Managing self and triggers
  • Partnering with authority
  • Understanding and collaborating with diverse values and perspectives
  • Applying systems thinking
  • Creating western conservation community through building relationships

Here’s are a few testimonials from program graduates:

“Be prepared to practice leadership, be vulnerable, and actively participate!”

“This is not a series of power points and readings. If you aren’t prepared to immerse yourself, then don’t bother.”

“If any part of the course description intrigues you, apply! This is the kind of course that will both transform your understanding of your work, your ability to make change, and the future that is possible for the West.”

“It was unquestionably life-changing.” 

“It’s all about you. If you don’t want to critically examine yourself and your role in leadership, this course is not the course for you. It’s a program, not a training, so manage your expectations (preconceived notions) coming in or be prepared to be disappointed.”

“I have developed a better understanding about my relationship with authority and how much I felt the need for approval and validation in so many areas.”

“I’ve thought a lot about the values and experiences that influence me and my biases. I am aware of who I am spending time with and how that influences the way I think about things.”

“I’m much less worried about saying the wrong thing and knowing that my perspective matters even if it may be conflictual.”

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