For several years, Defenders’ Southeast field staff have worked throughout the region to raise the visibility of the South’s native red wolf. With the species suffering from agency mismanagement and political antagonism, one of our primary goals has been to activate a constituency that can speak for and build support for red wolf conservation within local communities.
One activist who has done just that is Christopher Lile, of Waynesville, North Carolina. Christopher has already published several letters to the editor, authored blog posts, and taken a lead role in raising red wolf awareness in western North Carolina. Because he has a love for music and a desire to elevate wildlife conservation, Christopher recently conceived a new and innovative type of outreach event: a Concert for Conservation.
Over the course of a year, Christopher and other community members volunteered their time and meticulously planned an event for First United Methodist Church of Waynesville, that would bring together musicians,church-goers, and wildlife advocates. Over 200 people were in attendance and several musicians from surrounding communities either sang or performed with an impressive array of instruments, ranging from the flute and trumpet to the organ and marimba. All told, the audience was regaled by 10 incredible performances. Because the event was intended to raise awareness around the red wolf’s plight, I was fortunate to speak to the congregation about the threat of extinction, red wolf conservation efforts, and ways for folks to take action on behalf of the world’s most endangered canine.
Parishioners were also provided with beautifully-crafted programs, outlining tools for action. Because it’s critical that agency leaders hear from North Carolinians — the US Fish and Wildlife Service recently proposed shrinking the red wolf recovery by about 90%, and allowing all landowners to shoot any wolf that steps onto their property — audience members were given talking points and contact information, and were encouraged to join Defenders’ Red Wolf Facebook group to stay apprised of breaking news and updates. The church also generously passed around a basket for “love offerings,” which were donated to Defenders and the red wolf cause. Several thousand dollars were raised, all of which will be devoted to the on-the-ground red wolf recovery effort in eastern North Carolina.
In what is a true sign of outreach success, I’ve since been contacted by several people that were touched by both music and inspired to take further action. We in the Defenders of Wildlife Southeast office are grateful and energized by the efforts of those that helped put on such a powerful event. In the coming months, it is action of this nature that will save the species and ensure the red wolf forever has a place among the pines and wetlands of Eastern North Carolina — and perhaps one day, the larger region.