(Ed. Note: Gene Gilliland is a senior fisheries biologist with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife and president of the North Oklahoma City Bassmasters.)You've read much in BASS Times about how important it is for you and your Federation to build a relationship with your state fishery management agency. But just how do you go about doing that?
Many times relationships are started when circumstances force sportsmen's organizations and management agencies together to deal with an issue. Sometimes, everyone is on the same side and a long-lasting partnership is formed.
However, issues are often divisive and groups take sides against each other. All too often, such reactionary settings are confrontational and get relationships off to a rocky start with both parties mistrusting each other.
A much better way to build a healthy relationship, grounded on respect and trust, is to be proactive. Don't wait for an issue to come up. Make it a point to get together when there are no burning issues to distract or polarize either side. Try to create a team atmosphere where everyone works together. If you go into the process with the idea that everyone is on the same side and that your ultimate goals are the same (conservation of aquatic resources and the perpetuation of quality fishing opportunities), you can begin to build a bond that will hold through the ups and downs and disagreements that will inevitably crop up. Start locally, and begin by building a positive relationship with biologists that manage the fisheries that matter the most to you. Use that relationship to open doors to administrative offices in the agency headquarters. Having allies within the agency can pave the way and help establish positive connections throughout the agency. Once you've developed a working relationship with local agency personnel regarding issues that matter most to you, and you have a track record of successful projects or problem resolution, you're ready to approach the agency administrators with a list of "big picture" issues that may affect the region or the entire state.
Invite agency staff to a planning session where you can all sit down at the table and discuss issues, constraints, resources that are available to be used in addressing the issues, priorities and timetables. At this point it is a good idea to use a trained facilitator to guide the discussion. Facilitators can help you stay focused on the objectives and make your time more productive. They can also help in summarizing the results of the day's meeting and provide unbiased feedback to all participants."Team-building," "Relationship" and "Partnership" are common buzzwords in government and business today. Everyone says you need to have them, but nobody can snap their fingers and create them. You have to have a sincere commitment to make them happen. Take the initiative and extend a hand to your potential agency partners. Together, you can make a differenceDo's and dont's of relationship building As both a Federation member and professional biologist, Gene Gilliland is uniquely qualified to bridge the gap between anglers and their state government counterparts. Following is his list of "do's" and "don'ts" for relationship building between the two groups.
Assume they have all the answers.