The George Wright Society Conferences could be the United States' premier interdisciplinary professional meetings on parks, protected areas and cultural sites.

As part of the conference, people attending are given the chance to visit various destinations to see firsthand how resources are being handled.

Last week, the conference was held in Portland and for their final-day field trip, dozens of conference attendees chose to come to Lewis and Clark National Historical Park and learn how the park was managing its resources.

Every two years, the George Wright Society holds the conference to expedite the exchange of information among people who play roles in conserving and restoring natural resources. The conferences draw people from all around the world. The last time it was held in Portland was in 1995.

And though the conferences are jam-packed with seminars, keeping more than 900 attendees busy trying to absorb information from dozens of sources, the conferences' last days are reserved to allow attendees to take field trips to local sites, like Mount Hood or Lewis and Clark National Historical Park.

The conferences are named for George Melendez Wright, a naturalist who in 1929 started a wildlife survey program for U.S. National Parks. He became the first chief of the wildlife division for the Park Service. Wright began the first park system-wide evaluations of wildlife to identify urgent problems. He died in an automobile accident when he was 32.

Park Superintendent David Szymanski said the option to come to Fort Clatsop was so popular that some people had to be turned away.

Shortly after 10 a.m. Friday, a tour bus arrived at the park and about 45 curious biologists, resource managers and others disembarked.

They split into two groups, one intent on taking a kayak tour of the Lewis and Clark River, the other destined for a six-mile hike along the Fort to Sea Trail.

Those who chose to hike the trail were briefed on the status of the park's wetland restoration projects and wildlife monitoring programs.

Paul Griffin, of the United States Geological Survey (USGS), said the agency has made monitoring elk in the Pacific Northwest a priority. The USGS is partnering with the National Park Service to develop monitoring protocols in the park.

"Elk move in and out of the park at different seasons," Griffin said. "With all the restorations, (park employees) needed to know where the relative use is high or low. We needed a metric that would tell us how elk use is changing over time."

At a later meeting along the trail - at the "through-arch bridge" - with representatives of the North Coast Land Conservancy, hikers were told about the land trust's efforts to restore and preserve habitat for endangered silverspot butterflies on Clatsop Plains.

Executive Director Katie Voelke said the land in the plains is owned by a large number of different people. So, rather than try to purchase all the properties, a better way to conserve the habitat was to make each of the landowners partners in efforts to restore habitat. She said they are enthusiastic about seeing the wildlife return to the plains.

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