PARC Mission: To conserve amphibians, reptiles and their habitats as integral parts of our ecosystem and culture through proactive and coordinated public/private partnerships.
PARC is still in its first year if we view the starting point as the first national meeting in Atlanta in June 1999. Since that time, a variety of regional meetings have been held to determine the most effective means to accomplish the PARC goals of conservation of amphibians and reptiles. Turtles and tortoises are, of course, a major component of this effort.
The first meeting of the Southeastern Working Group of PARC, held 21-23 February 2000, was hosted by the Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center in southern Georgia (the mission of the JWJERC is to provide a program of excellence in ecology and natural resource management that includes integrated research, education, and conservation goals).
John Jensen, Georgia DNR and Co-Chair of SE PARC Working Group, organized the meeting with help in coordination from Joe Mitchell, University of Richmond, and Henry Mushinsky, University of South Florida, who also served as facilitator.
The southeastern region, as defined by the USFWS, was well represented at the meeting by all states except Kentucky and Louisiana. Individuals from these states had planned to come, but circumstances prevented their attendance. A wide range of partners were present, however, including representatives from state and federal agencies, the timber industry, the pet trade, universities, and conservation organizations. Many other individuals had expressed interest in attending the meeting, but to ensure that this was an effective working meeting, and due to space limitations at the JWJERC, attendance was limited in an attempt to accommodate as broad a representation as possible. One goal of the meeting, as will be true for all PARC meetings, was to determine how to get everyone involved who wants to be involved. Thus, attendees were viewed as representives not only from their own organizations but also of all the others who would like to have been involved but were unable to attend.
Regional PARC meetings are an excellent forum for information exchange for everyone with an agenda that in some way involves reptiles and amphibians. Among the discussions at the Southeast PARC meeting was an update by Kurt Buhlmann, Conservation International, of the Asian turtle crisis and of discussions underway to develop temporary holding facilities for confiscated animals. The southeastern United States is clearly a region where such a program could be carried out with the support and cooperation of various facilities.
It was also noted in the general discussions that funding to accomplish PARC goals is becoming increasingly available through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and federal agencies, and that great expectations for herpetology are anticipated with Conservation and Reinvestment Act (CARA) funding through various states once the process is complete. Conservation of southeastern turtles was continually a topic through many of the discussions during the three-day meeting. The full details and minutes of the Southeast PARC meeting can be viewed on the PARC Web site (www.parcplace.org).