New Urban Partnerships Reach Out to Urban Audiences
Wildlife refuges are valuable for people, but not every urban center has a national wildlife refuge in its backyard. In an attempt to include new audiences in the conservation community, the National Wildlife Refuge System is developing Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnerships in metropolitan areas where it does not have a land base. Eight urban wildlife refuge partnerships, announced in 2013, will aim to "meet people where they are" and explore different values and ways to connect with nature.
The Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnerships are based in Chicago, Houston, Baltimore, Seattle, Los Angeles, Albuquerque, Providence, RI, and New Haven, CT. Engaging urban communities with various ways to enjoy and appreciate nature is a major objective of the Refuge System's Conserving the Future vision for the next decade. The idea is to improve people's lives while making Service programs more relevant to Americans 80 percent of whom now live in cities.
In each partnership, the Service will work with community groups to connect with audiences that may not have had past experience with wildlife conservation. Each Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership will offer "stepping stones" to enjoy nature, realizing that the public has diverse interests and experiences levels with the outdoors.
A list of the eight partnerships follows. Two more are scheduled to be announced by 2015.
- New Haven Harbor Watershed Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership, Connecticut. This 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. Partners in this highly diverse neighborhood include Yale University, National Audubon Society, EPA Long Island Sound Office and the City of New Haven Department of Parks and Recreation.
- Forest Preserves of Cook County Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership, Illinois. This project will create a ladder of nature learning and engagement opportunities that starts in urban neighborhoods and expands to the forest preserves, and ultimately, refuges. There will be birds and habitat-restoration presentations, guided nature walks, field trips and other outdoor activities. The goal is to hire young people to conduct outreach and restoration activities. Partners include Eden Place Nature Center, Audubon Chicago Region, Chicago Cultural Alliance, Fuller Park Community Development, and the Student Conservation Association.
- Albuquerque Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership, New Mexico. One of the newest urban wildlife refuges, Valle de Oro, with the help of Friends of Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge, Friends of Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, Audubon's Birds of a Feather Program, and the Center for Southwest Culture, will establish an urban presence before the refuge officially opens in 3-5 years. This urban presence includes a community garden at the Mountain View Community Center, a part of the National Conservation Training Center’s Building Urban Community Habitats with Youth Program.
- Houston Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership, Texas. The Texas Mid-Coast Refuge Complex will work with Houston Wilderness, an alliance of business, environmental and government interests, to create a coordinated conservation presence in the metro area.
- Providence Parks Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership, Rhode Island. Rhode Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex and the Southern New England/New York Bight Coastal Program of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will work with the City of Providence Park System, the Partnership for Providence Parks, the Roger Williams Park Zoo, The Nature Conservancy of Rhode Island, Urban Pond Procession, Audubon Society of Rhode Island, and other conservation organizations to develop and implement an inclusive and cohesive environmental awareness and education program by bringing messages to more than 100 parks, schools, and zoos.
- Masonville Cove Urban Wildlife Refuge, Maryland. This 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. Living Classroom Foundation will develop curriculum; BayBrook will help with internships, and the Maryland Community Naturalist Network will help develop mentors.
- Lake Sammamish Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership, Washington. This partnership will increase awareness, understanding, support of the Service and the Refuge System as well as conservation of aquatic ecosystems and native species at Lake Sammamish State Park and the Issaquah State Salmon Hatchery and elsewhere.
- Los Angeles River Rover Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership, California. 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 rover will be a mobile exhibit with an interactive model of the Los Angeles River watershed.