Willow Flycatcher Willow Flycatcher
Photo Credit: Tom Grey

Our History

Glenn Olson

How the CVJV Changed the Conservation Movement

In today's Central Valley Joint Venture, collaboration between hunting and non-hunting groups is taken for granted. CVJV partners, indeed most conservation organizations, no longer question the alliances that have brought so many positive results for birds and habitat. Such was not always the case. The CVJV helped create a model of collaboration for hunting and non-hunting conservation organizations to work together – as well as for state and federal resource agencies to work together well. In so doing, the various conservation entities and bipartisan spirit of the early Joint Venture years has allowed much more success in achieving the goals as well as funding from state, federal and private sources.

The National Audubon Society, one of the original members of the Central Valley Habitat Joint Venture, played an instrumental role in leading the partners of the Joint Venture towards common ground. Glenn Olson, Executive Director of Audubon California, and a signatory to the original 1990 Implementation Plan, remembers the time well. The State and Federal agencies had questions about who was ultimately responsible for the state's wildlife, including migratory birds and endangered species. The Audubon office was the half-way point between the state and federal agencies and provided a neutral ground for hosting meetings. Eventually, the individuals at the table developed a genuine respect for each other, which was reflected in an early and impressive record of success. For Glenn Olson and Audubon there were multiple pay-offs. Relationships formed in those early years would prove critical to Audubon's wetlands conservation program and, as Olson says, "Partners working together could make a political show of force. We produced tangible results that no group could get working alone."

It took time, persistence and results to convince the members of Audubon that collaborating with hunters was a good thing. The same was true of Defenders of Wildlife. As an organization, Defenders of Wildlife was opposed to hunting. According to Olson, Defender's California Representative, Richard Spotts, helped transform their attitude. His knowledge of water law was critical and helped to build trust within the group. "Having Richard's legal expertise on water law combined with California Waterfowl Association lobbyist Dan Chapin's political acumen, led to the 1992 success in the Central Valley Improvement Act providing water to all state and federal wildlife refuges in the Valley," Olson said. Like the first Joint Venture Coordinator Gary Kramer, Olson believes that trust between the original Management Board members was a critical factor in building the bonds that provided a solid foundation for future JV accomplishments. That foundation and spirit continues 20 years later, in today's CVJV.

The conservation movement of today can thank the original members of the Central Valley Habitat Joint Venture Management Board for having the nerve to challenge the status quo, overcome their differences, and focus on their common mission of restoring waterfowl populations, and the habitat needed to sustain them. In so doing, they made it easier for other conservation partnerships to form, with tremendous benefits for birds, wildlife and habitat.


The CVJV partnership has earned an impressive record of accomplishment since its inception in 1988, and is making great progress towards meeting the objectives identified in its 2020 Implementation Plan.