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Director's Corner

Meet Service Director Dan Ashe.

Celebrating Birds this International Migratory Bird Day and Every Day


My brothers and I spent a lot of time outside when we were growing up, and for us – as for many others – early May meant our chance to see some of the hundreds of millions of birds migrating north. They journey for many miles over land and water throughout North America. During their travels, they may stop in our National Wildlife Refuges, city parks, and urban and rural backyards, as well as other habitats. So no matter where you are, you have a chance to see migrating birds.

This spring we celebrate International Migratory Bird Day. The most important and spectacular event in the life of a migratory bird – its annual voyage between its summer and winter homes – is celebrated in Canada, the United States, Mexico and Central America through bird festivals, bird walks and education programs. While typically celebrated on the second Saturday of May, celebrating birds is not just a day.  Birds can be celebrated 365 days a year.

This year’s theme for International Migratory Bird Day – The Benefits of Birds to Humans and Nature – shares the many ways in which birds matter to the earth, to ecosystems and, of course, to us.  


Fostering a Connection in Providence

Today, I was excited to take part in a ceremony to designate one of our Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnerships, this time in Providence, Rhode Island.

These partnerships, which build on local conservation efforts and neighborhood networks, strive to engage urban residents, both young and old, in real connections with nature.


The Roger Williams Park Zoo Teacher Institute engages teachers.

They provide a way to reach beyond the traditional boundaries of our National Wildlife Refuges to connect with urban communities across the country.

This approach recognizes more than ever that no one can handle all conservation by ourselves – and that we all have to work together with partners.


Conservation is Strong on this 44th Earth Day

Earth Day founder Senator Gaylord Nelson told President Kennedy in 1963 that while the public is “aware that all around them, here and there, outdoor assets are disappearing, they really don’t see the awful dimension of the catastrophe” that prominent conservationists of that time, such as Rachel Carson, were pointing out.

In 1969, after a devastating oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara, California, Senator Nelson had an idea: a teach-in on the environment; and on April 22, 1970, Earth Day began.

Boy, did the country learn. 

The years after the first Earth Day saw the passage of many major environmental laws, including the Endangered Species Act in 1973.

Nestucca Bay NWR beckons in this photo from 2009. Credit: USFWS

So, on each Earth Day anniversary, we momentarily pause in our individual and societal quests for greater affluence and give thanks for the many blessings of a healthy environment: clean drinking water; rivers, lakes and oceans that are swimmable and fishable; air that is breathable; open spaces that support outdoor recreation and a vibrant recreation economy; habitat that provides protection from storms and floods … the list goes on.


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