In a major effort to connect city dwellers to nature, the National Wildlife Refuge System has created an Urban Wildlife Refuge Initiative and is establishing seven pilot urban wildlife refuge partnerships this year.


The partnerships are being formed in response to Conserving the Future Recommendation 13, which calls for the creation of “an urban refuge initiative that defines excellence in our existing urban refuges, establishes the framework for creating new urban refuge partnerships and implements a refuge presence in 10 demographically and geographically varied cities across America by 2015.”


The Conserving the Future Urban Wildlife Refuge Initiative implementation team will formally announce the pilot partnerships at the Urban Academy, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife training session Sept. 23–25 at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, WV. Three other urban wildlife refuge partnership designations are scheduled to be announced by 2015.


The pilot partnerships allow the Service to work with key community organizations that have been active in wildlife conservation and can help set the stage for expanding the nation’s conservation constituency. The seven partnerships are:


Creating Urban Oasis in New Haven Harbor Watershed. This Connecticut project will create a network of wildlife–friendly habitat oases and habitat improvements in municipal parks, schoolyards, vacant lots and units of Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge.


Urban Wildlife Refuge logo

Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Chicago. This project focuses on creating a ladder of nature learning and engagement opportunities that starts in urban neighborhoods and expands to the forest preserves, and ultimately, refuges.


Houston Wilderness. The Texas Mid–Coast Refuge Complex will be part of a coalition to create a coordinated Service conservation presence in the Houston metro area.


Providence Diversity of Wildlife, Lands and Communities Project. The Rhode Island Refuge Complex and the Service’s Southern New England/New York Bight Coastal Program will work with partners to take conservation messages to more than 100 parks, schools and a zoo.


The members of a middle school nature group enjoy the view from a state park overlooking New Haven, CT. (Common Ground Connecticut).
The members of a middle school nature group enjoy the view from a state park overlooking New Haven, CT. Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge will work closely with the urban wildlife refuge partnership there. (Common Ground Connecticut)

Masonville Cove Urban Wildlife Refuge, Baltimore. This Maryland cooperative between the Chesapeake Bay Ecological Services office and Patuxent Research Refuge will bring a conservation message to a poor, high–crime neighborhood along the Patapsco River.


Lake Sammamish Kokanee Salmon Partnership, Seattle. It will increase awareness, understanding and support of the Service, the Refuge System and conservation of aquatic ecosystems and native species at Lake Sammamish State Park and the Issaquah State Salmon Hatchery and elsewhere.


Los Angeles River Rover. The San Diego Refuge Complex will create a River Rover, whose goal is to bring “people to the river” and “the river to the people.” The project will involve a mobile exhibit space to include an interactive model of the Los Angeles River watershed.


“With 80 percent of the U.S. population currently residing in urban communities, the challenge to ensure our natural resources are conserved and valued by the American people has become even more complex,” the implementation team said in explaining the partnerships. “To ensure that we nurture a new conservation constituency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must promote strategies to engage these audiences in meaningful, collaborative ways that build sustainable, broad–based support for the mission.”


For more information, go to AmericasWildlife.org.




Amira Ghazzah of Chicago enjoys a marsh at Bartel Grassland.
Amira Ghazzah of Chicago enjoys a marsh at Bartel Grassland just south of the city. An urban wildlife refuge partnership there aims to create ladder of nature learning and engagement opportunities that starts in urban neighborhoods and expands to the forest preserves, and ultimately, refuges. (Cristina Rutter/Forest Preserve District of Cook County)