• Regional Priority Urban Wildlife Refuge map iconRegional Priority Urban Wildlife Refuge map icon Regional Priority Urban Wildlife Refuge
  • Additional Urban Wildlife Refuges map iconAdditional Urban Wildlife Refuges map iconAdditional Urban Wildlife Refuges
  • Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnerships map iconUrban Wildlife Refuge Partnerships map iconUrban Wildlife Refuge Partnerships
  • Urban Bird Treaty Cities map iconUrban Bird Treaty Cities map iconUrban Bird Treaty City
 

Regional Priority Urban Wildlife Refuge Descriptions »


Don Edwards San Francisco Bay NWR

Photo of Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge

Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge

Refuge Name: Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge

Click here to download the refuge description PDF

Community: Created by Congress in 1972, the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge (SFBNWR) was the first urban refuge in the United States with a specific establishing purpose to “provide an opportunity for wildlife-oriented recreation and nature study.” It is a highly urbanized region with approximately 7.15 million people (2010 U.S. Census) in 101 cities and nine counties, which include the major metropolitan areas of San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose. The Bay Area is also one of the most culturally diverse regions in the United States with over 112 languages spoken including significant populations speaking Spanish, Chinese, Tagolog, Vietnamese and Russian. Many of the communities bordering the refuge have already passed the minority majority milestone, and we expect this trend to continue. According to a 2012 Refuge Visitor Satisfaction Survey, 95% visitors live within 50 miles of the refuge, and 81% were repeat visitors with up to 29 visits/year. This data suggests that there is a large local constituency that we could engage more profoundly in conservation stewardship through play, learning, work and service.

Comparison of current DESFBNWR visitor demographics versus neighboring communities (U.S. Census 2010)

Comparison of current DESFBNWR visitor demographics versus neighboring communities (U.S. Census 2010)

Project Summary: Current refuge visitation and engagement does not reflect the true diversity of our surrounding communities, and this needs to change. In order to maintain our relevancy to a rapidly changing America, we envision a bold program that uses new outreach tools, connects children to nature, and enlists the power of our communities to protect public lands. Our strategies will rely on active involvement of private partners and community leaders, and will bring jobs to area youth. Through expanded education programs, we will reach into new communities. We will work with partners to make the refuge a regional gateway for public recreation and to provide access to local and regional parks and wildlife areas. To engage new audiences, we will recruit and deploy diverse and bilingual teams for specialized outreach. We will bring the refuge into our communities through new offsite programs. Finally, we will meet the 21st century needs of youth and families by developing state-of-the-art technology tools for self-directed nature experiences on and off refuges.

Comparison of visitor demographics versus neighboring communities in the Bay Area

Comparison of visitor demographics versus neighboring communities in the Bay Area

Play

To increase our visitor diversity, we will engage the following strategies:

  • Improve and expand visitor facilities to make them accessible and welcoming to a diverse public, including accessible and multi-language interpretive display areas, accessible trails, and outdoor education pavilions.
  • Build a nature play space to create an area that is welcoming for families with young children
  • Enhance connectivity of refuge to public transportation services and community bike and pedestrian routes, and partner with regional public transportation authorities to increase mass transit options to the refuge.
  • Engage millennials and mature techies with mobile media tools, such as smartphone apps, that supportself-directed activities that connect them with nature.

Learn

Students doing restoration education.

Students doing restoration education.

We will bring environmental education to 20,000 underserved youth and adults in at least 5 neighboring communities.

  • Build and deploy a mobile classroom and interpretive exhibit with teams of bilingual staff and volunteers to engage diverse audiences where they learn and play, such as schools, city parks, science fairs, and art and nature festivals.
  • Create an onsite, sustainable outdoor learning lab and teaching gardens to engage the public and school groups in native plants and habitat restoration.
  • Expand outreach and recruitment efforts to reach adult learners in colleges and universities, senior groups, community services, and disabled support groups
  • Provide support materials and funding to schools, community organizations, and place-based conservation education programs to grow their programs which support refuge objectives

Serve

South Bay aerial.

South Bay aerial.

We plan to provide deep and meaningful stewardship opportunities for to up to 2,500 people/year.

  • Develop facilities and meaningful work tasks to support a volunteer-camper program to attract mobile volunteers, especially retirees, for extended periods of service.
  • Develop a program, with appropriate facilities, to host travelling youth and college groups for short-term service projects.
  • Host service learning projects for school clubs and after-school programs to engage youth in refuge stewardship activities.
  • Develop and deliver high quality training program to foster a dedicated volunteer force.

Work

We intend to provide the following high quality employment opportunities to our local youth and young adults.

  • Establish an afterschool/weekend employment program for area teens based on a Conservation Corps model to fully immerse and empower participants in conservation work.
  • Hire 1-2 bilingual Community Ambassadors through the Pathways Program annually to assist in community outreach to diverse audiences.
  • Provide paid internships for 10-12 young adults annually through the Student Conservation Association (SCA) to work in visitor services, wildlife monitoring, and habitat management programs.
  • Provide paid internships for 4-6 local high school youth annually to serve as advisors and instructors for the youth summer camps and refuge service projects.

San Diego National Wildlife Refuge Complex

Refuge Name: Southern California Refuge Complex


Click here to download the refuge description PDF

Youth visitor looks into aquarium.

Youth visitor looks into aquarium.

Community Analysis Summary:

  • Southern California, the second largest metropolitan area in the US, with over 17 million people.
  • The combined demographic areas are over 50% Hispanic, reflecting our nation’s projected racial and ethnic mix in 2060. Our urban areas now reflect the future trends of the changing ethnic mix of the United States and our approaches in reaching diverse communities will be directly transferable to other parts of the country.

Project Summary:
Anchored in the south by the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge Complex and to the north by the Hopper Mountain Refuge Complex, the SoCal Urban Wildlife Refuge Project reaches deep into Los Angeles’ diverse urban core where the revitalization of the Los Angeles River is bringing back nature to urban residents. We will significantly expand the vast potential of the Los Angeles Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership, one of the eight pilot cities under the Urban Wildlife Refuge Program, to connect urban communities with the great outdoors. We will expand reach into the surrounding communities by tapping into local schools and programs with cutting-edge technology and building upon our exemplary partnerships.

Our dream is to infuse new and diverse audiences within the large urban population of Southern California with the belief that conserving wildlife and natural habitats, whether in their neighborhood parks or within national wildlife refuges across the country, is essential to sustaining healthy communities. Through outdoor learning, service and stewardship of natural habitats, conservation-based work for disadvantaged young adults, and enjoyment of being exposed to nature, we will build an urban constituency that supports conservation.

The SoCal Urban Wildlife Refuge Project will build enthusiasm for understanding science and growing future conservationists through outdoor learning, service and stewardship of natural habitats, conservation based work for disadvantaged young adults, and enjoyment of being exposed to nature. A River Corps program for disadvantaged youth will focus on habitat restoration and environmental education, and we will bring the ‘river to the people’ through community events and unique learning activities. Furthermore, we will build a corps of young technology-savvy environmental stewards and develop a pilot program to integrate technological tools with science curriculum, environmental restoration, and civic responsibility. Students and teachers will get hands-on and mentor-based programs that build science and technology skills while at the same time fostering collaboration, self-confidence, and experience. This proposal creates a media library that highlights the unique qualities of urban refuge for both people and wildlife and will be used to promote education, exploration and engagement on urban refuges.

Play

  • Engage families inside the River Rover at community events where they will learn about riparian habitat, and have opportunities to fish, kayak, and bicycle.
  • Conduct 30 River Corps-led environmental education and community outreach activities that engage families and youth.
Fish swimming in the aquarium.

Fish swimming in the aquarium.

Learn

  • LA River Rover will focus on an in-class watershed lesson plan on the Los Angeles River’s past, present, and future, with 50 school visits, 10 riverside events, and 15 educational field trips with River Corps members.
  • CondorKids focuses on engaging Fillmore Unified School District, a low-income area near Hopper Mountain Refuge with over 75% Hispanic students, in becoming active condor conservationists. Other partners include the Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office, Santa Barbara Zoo, and Cornell Lab of Ornithology who will provide technology to stream the live condor nest to the classroom.
  • Develop a community of young women (grades 7–12) engaged in STEM learning with Living Coast Discovery Center’s BE WiSE program.
  • Partner with Earth Discovery Institute to build a corps of over 90 young technology-savvy environmental stewards, including in-class instruction, field-based restoration, and production of capstone videos for public service announcements.
  • Host 200 students in the Student Scientist Series with Living Coast Discovery Center
  • L.I.V.E (Live Interactive Virtual Exploration) creates the virtual classroom for all students to offer authentic, inquiry-based learning at San Diego Bay. We will expand the wireless network to create more opportunities for virtual field trips with San Diego State University, and provide teacher training and backpacks.
  • Work with Zoological Society of San Diego to provide free science-based, laboratory and field research experiences to 20 science teachers and approximately 1,000 students from Title I to foster an informed and environmentally literate public.

Serve

  • Host three site locations for the Gran Limpieza (Great Cleanup) of the LA River
  • Students will produce at least 30 capstone video projects to be developed as public service announcements or environmental science teaching films.
  • Host 16 one-day volunteer events with at least 150 participants.
  • River Corps members will work with scientific experts to conduct five research surveys along the Los Angeles River.

Work

  • Partner with the LA Conservation Corps to expand their existing LA River Corps program by funding a six-member crew of inner city, low-income young adults
  • Complete more than 50 projects by River Corps that contribute to the overall natural quality within and adjacent to the Los Angeles River.

Rocky Mountain Arsenal

Refuge Name: Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge Complex.

Click here to download the refuge description PDF

Denver:

  • Denver is a magnet for Millennials attracted to the region for its combination of dynamic, creative urban life and proximity to world-class recreational opportunities.
  • From 2012 to 2013, the refuge saw a 1,200 % increase in visitation, from 23,000 visitors to more than 300,000.
  • Within the Denver city limits, the 16,000-acre Rocky Mountain Arsenal offers opportunities to see and learn about bison, bald eagles, mule deer, migratory songbirds and waterfowl. No other major urban area has a conservation holding of this size.
  • The Rocky Mountain Greenway concept will provide a complete connection between the three national wildlife refuges and a vast network of open public/private lands in between.
  • Transportation alternatives will include connections to three new light-rail stations, upgrades to provide safe travel for schoolchildren from the refuge to five schools, and connectivity to Denver International Airport.
  • One of the largest barriers to the future of the Rocky Mountain Arsenal as an urban refuge is the location, style, and type of fencing used by the U.S. Army. This fence was designed specifically to keep people out and is contrary to our future goals.
  • Open The Grand Loop, a tour route that will provide access to three quarters of the refuge, and create a bike/pedestrian trail on the southern side that will connect key locations on the refuge.
  • As part of the black-footed ferret reintroduction effort, we will construct an outdoor live ferret exhibit to educate the public.

Community Analysis Summary:

  • Approximately 1,021,000 people between Denver, Aurora, and Commerce City.
  • Demographics of the three surrounding communities include: 61-69% White; 28-46% Hispanic; 3-15% Black or African American; 2-5% Asian; less than 2% Native American.

Project Summary:
The broad vision of this proposal focuses on expanding youth programs, increasing investment to established and emerging partnerships, removing barriers, and increasing and improving access for our visitors. We will engage a diversity of partners, including Environmental Learning for Kids, a successful program recognized by the Obama Administration for its strong educational support, healthy role models, and opportunities for positive community action for youth, helping them to become engaged, productive, and successful members of society. Since a priority focus will be on the physical connections between people and nature, we will reduce and eliminate barriers to community access through outreach and education and marketing materials that focus on ethnic diversity.

Play

  • Develop and enhance outdoor recreation partnerships in 50 cities over the next four years for more than 10 million young people.
  • A new tour bus will increase access for 8,000 visitors from surrounding communities.

Learn

  • 20,000 schoolchildren will participate in formal environmental education programs.
  • Provide educational opportunities for at least 10 million K-12 kids annually

Serve

  • Attain 1 million volunteers nationally.
  • Create an Urban Rangers program, a youth ambassador program that promotes science, conservation, fishing and awareness.

Work

  • Employ four to six summer interns.
  • Through public and private partnerships, provide 100,000 work and training opportunities to young people and veterans over four years.

Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge

Refuge Name: Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge: Distance Refuge Engagement and Mentoring program (DREAM)


Click here to download the refuge description PDF

Community:
Utah’s Greater Salt Lake Valley is home to approximately 1.8 million people. Our targeted urban areas include Weber and Salt Lake Counties, home to the broadest representation of culturally-diverse residents within Utah and within an hour’s drive of Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. In these counties people who speak a language other than English at home overwhelmingly speak Spanish.

The biggest barrier to minorities in visiting public lands is a perception that they aren’t welcome. This is a multi-component issue compounded by lack of: minority staff, cultural relevance in programming, insufficient multi-lingual support, and unfamiliarity on the part of staff with cultural norms, preferred activities, and preferred communication modes.

Project Summary:
DREAM addresses the need to engage young people who might otherwise not have a connection to nature. Connections will be cultivated with stewardship education, activities and work experience. Through these experiences; the conservation heroes of the future may be cultivated. DREAM’s focus is to provide the opportunities for underserved and urban youth to choose careers in conservation, starting with awareness and education, and cultivating the critical steps along the way.

Bear River seeks to advance engagement of urban young people and families with conservation education activities through a traveling trailer that will be filled with exhibits including an interactive model of the Bear River. The “Blue Goose Mobile Refuge” and its associated nature activities will also provide a mentoring program and curriculum for summer camps/after-school programs. Distance classroom programming through “Aqua Kids” with instructor guides, educational resource materials, social media and experiential field-trip programming will serve Weber and Salt Lake School Districts. Youth from both Weber and Salt Lake School Districts will be invited and encouraged to work and volunteer at their National Wildlife Refuge through the use of bi-lingual Refuge Ambassadors, young adults that can serve as role models.

Partners include: Friends of the Bear River Refuge, Ogden Nature Center, Utah Conservation Corps, Dual Immersion Academy, U.S. Dream Academy , Sorenson Multicultural Center, U.S. Forest Service, Utah Department of Natural Resources, Utah State University Extension Service, Utah Watershed Coordinating Council, Natural Resource Conservation Service, Aqua Kids Adventure Productions.

Play:

  • A traveling “Blue Goose Mobile Refuge” for schools, festivals, summer camps and after school programs will provide an introduction to Bear River and the Great Salt Lake ecosystem.
  • Transportation for summer camp/after school program students to the refuge for on-the-ground, hands-on conservation.
  • Development of an iPhone and iPad app for a refuge scavenger hunt

Learn:

  • Public television program “Aqua Kids,” produced at Bear River, will provide distance education for students while promoting learning through social media
  • Grade-level and site-specific conservation curriculum, instructor guides, and activity books will correlate to Utah’s Core Standards and provide follow-up to “Aqua Kids” television programs; Volunteers will serve as mentors to bring the curriculum to the schools, sharing their passion for conservation and connecting to youth.
  • The “Blue Goose Mobile Refuge” with other outlets, will reach 100,000 people in its first year of service.

Serve:

  • AmeriCorps and Student conservation Corps volunteers will be Crew Leaders for UCC, YCC and will be serve as bi-lingual environmental education specialist and Refuge Ambassadors. Volunteers will assist in development of DREAM curriculum and work with audiences and organizations/partners.
  • 5 - 10 SCA/AmeriCorps positions per year.

Work:

  • Partner with the existing Utah Bi-lingual Conservation Corps to expand to Weber and Salt Lake Counties – summer jobs for 20 Urban Youth.
  • Expand outreach for Bear River’s existing Youth Conservation Corps program; again partnering outreach efforts with UCC.
  • Partner with sister agency NPS and National Monument Golden Spike for inter-agency work experience for all crews.
  • Hire Pathway(s) student during the school year that are also bi-lingual for outreach and education components of DREAM.
  • 20 -40 Youth Jobs per year.

John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum

Refuge Name: John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum


John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge map.

South Bay aerial.

Click here to download the refuge description PDF

Creating Refuge Naturally in Philly
Engaging Local Communities with America's First Urban Refuge

Community
The Delaware Valley Region/Philadelphia Metropolitan area has a population of over 6.1 million across four states (page 1 graphic). Over 600,000 people reside within 5 miles and 1,700,000 live within 10 miles of the refuge.

Many residents in the local community currently do not visit the refuge. We will focus on the adjacent Eastwick community, which currently does not know the refuge well, to provide places and opportunities that offer a natural refuge in an urban community. As of the census of 2010, the ethnic makeup in the Eastwick community was 76% African American, with a median household income of $41,290. This will be the FWS’s greatest opportunity to share not only the Service mission with the public, but also to create a multitude of young and adult conservationists at the doorstep of America’s first urban refuge in the City of Brotherly Love.

Project Summary:
We will develop a community engagement cycle consisting of educating our youth, training youth for work experiences, and providing youth jobs in the conservation field. This program will create and nurture ambassadors throughout the city of Philadelphia, who know the FWS brand, and will share their great experiences with friends and family across the city and beyond. We will also connect the refuge with Philadelphia natural areas through new trail corridors and public transportation with new and improving regional and national partnerships. Creating community “pocket parks”/urban refuges will get the community involved in habitat conservation.

Play

  • Create Corridors to Nature by improving infrastructure and programs to provide safe access and a welcoming atmosphere to the refuge and other natural areas.
  • Work with partners to create and improve offsite corridors and transportation to reach more than 1,500,000 people living within 10 miles of the refuge. New corridors will connect more than 750 miles of trails in Philadelphia and throughout the regional area. New public transportation will bring carless visitors to the doorstep of our visitor center.
  • Bring nature into the city by working with communities and partners to build neighborhood “pocket parks,” developing exhibits and natural areas at sites throughout Philadelphia, telling our story through strategic communications, and contributing to regional environmental and sustainability initiatives.

Learn

  • Environmentally educate up to 3,000 students in four schools within 3 miles of the refuge.
  • Engage and educate the Eastwick community regarding our joint environmental challenges and develop community action that will reach more than 14,000 residents
  • Develop exhibits and natural areas at strategic sites throughout Philadelphia, while telling our conservation story through strategic communications.

Serve

  • Provide youth volunteer opportunities for approximately 1,000 students from local schools with partners.

Work

  • Establish a Groundwork Trust, which will employ an additional 20 youth annually in the community, and engage/educate families on environmental challenges.
  • Provide youth employment opportunities for 114 youth annually, through our partnership with the Student Conservation Association (SCA).

Patuxent Research Refuge

Refuge Name: Patuxent Research Refuge

Click here to download the refuge description PDF

Community:
Baltimore-Washington Corridor is a densely packed expanse of transportation, industry, and government that is home to over 9 million people. Most is within a 30-mile radius of Patuxent Research Refuge (PRR) in Laurel, MD, including over 1.4 million people. Focus communities beyond Laurel include Baltimore through the Masonville Cove Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership and Fairfax county, VA through the Fairfax County Public School (FCPS), the 11th largest school system in the nation. The proposal, through these partnerships, will reach over 1.7 million people.

Project Summary:
A tiered approach will target audiences, starting from the Refuge and expanding throughout the broadest geographic tier. At the refuge level, focus is on the residents and schools within Laurel. all the way to Baltimore at Masonville Cove and to northern Virginia focusing on residents and schools located within Fairfax County. This will establish a corridor for urban wildlife refuge connections to be created and fostered by the initiative’s strong pool of partners. Masonville Cove is at the heart of our proposal to reach into the 13 neighboring schools in the Baltimore communities of Curtis Bay, Brooklyn, and Cherry Hill. The next tier includes residents and schools surrounding Patuxent, with a focus on the residents and schools within the town of Laurel.

Play

Identify and strengthen a network of community supported wildlife corridors.
  • Strengthen existing and develop new partnerships to create a sustainable program that benefits local communities as well as natural resources;

Learn
Expand support for field experiences including transportation for school field trips and innovative interpretative programming for youth and families throughout the summer and weekends.

  • Provide transportation for 40,000 students from local schools and community centers to engage them in a variety of outdoor experiences in their surrounding community

Serve
Engage communities through long term investment in their local environment through local nature mentors and multicultural connections.

  • Develop 14 schoolyard habitats and begin community-wildlife gardens
  • Establish local nature mentors in communities and neighborhoods

Work
Establish an Urban Wildlife Corps which would actively engage over 30 youth in conservation career activities annually.


Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge

Refuge Name: Bayou Savage


Click here to download the refuge description PDF

  • Students will cultivate wetland plants in classrooms and school yards and plant them on the refuge.
  • The “Marsh Immersion Experience,” a 28’ mobile visitor center and laboratory will let urban students virtually explore the wetlands that surround them.
  • One of the largest urban refuges in the U.S. with more than 25,000 acres of wetland habitat within New Orleans’ metropolitan area.
  • Restore 800 acres of wetland on the refuge.
  • Students in grades 4-12 will contribute to monitoring of restoration through data collection.

Community Analysis Summary:

  • New Orleans population of metro area: 1,205, 374.
  • One of the highest percentages of Black or African American populations compared to other cities, with targeted schools’ population over 80% African American.
  • More than 40% of the population closest to the refuge is Asian, with a Vietnamese population that’s nearly 10 times the national average.
  • The rate of free and reduced lunch recipients at one of the primary schools served is 99% and all students participate in the Student Scholarship Program (vouchers).

Project Summary:
Through a comprehensive partnership with the University of New Orleans Pontchartrain Institute for Environmental Sciences, this proposal provides unique opportunities to explore and learn about the coastal wetland environments with the urban center of Greater New Orleans. Underserved students and volunteers will participate in structured service learning activities and contribute to habitat restoration on the refuge. A mobile visitor center and lab will allow students to virtually explore the wetlands that surround and learn about issues unique to the Mississippi Delta region.

Learn

  • Service-learning projects for students, including analyzing rates of land loss, measuring water quality, coastal restoration methods
  • Students will design and implement their own research projects.
  • Cultivate and grow marsh grass and other wetlands plants in classrooms.
  • The Mobile Visitor Center will serve 8,000-10,000 students who will learn about wetlands through interactive kiosks and exhibits.

Play

  • Overnight trips for high school students doing research projects.

Work

  • Six positions will be created for youth, including two undergraduate interns hired through the Earth and Environmental College at UNO; two paid community youth interns from partner groups; and two SCA interns for the refuge complex.

Serve

  • Students and volunteers will grow and plant wetland vegetation.
  • 2,000 students will participate in service projects resulting in the restoration of 800 acres of wetlands on Bayou Savage NWR.

Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee NWR

Refuge Name: Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee


Click here to download the refuge description PDF

  • Contains the 4th, 6th and 11th largest public school systems in the United States.
  • Largest wetland system in the world.
  • Greater Everglades landscape is expected to increase to 13.5 million over the next 50 years, requiring as much as 1.7 million acres for urban land use.
  • Virtual interpretation and education programs for 290,000 students.
  • Nature Explore classroom website will offer access to the latest news and research on children and nature and encourage shared educational materials.
  • Interactive kiosks where visitors can upload pictures to postcards.

Community Analysis Summary:

  • Miami-Ft. Lauderdale-Palm Beach (MFP) Population 5,564,635
  • 62% of metropolitan area is Hispanic/Latino or Black/African American.

Project Summary:

  • Community analysis and public outreach with emphasis on culture and reaching diverse communities.
  • Develop bilingual messages, exhibits and outreach materials.
  • Extensive promotion of the refuge through diversity of media.
  • Develop new and build upon existing youth involvement opportunities.
  • Actively engage and recruit volunteers.
  • Support and grow alternative transportation projects and public access.
  • Build upon, and use as a model, existing partnership with faith based community.
  • Provide transportation services for schools.
  • Sponsor and participate in traditional and non-traditional community events and functions.
  • Host and participate in environmental workshops events for youth.
  • Develop a mobile experience that brings the Everglades into communities.
  • Cultural and language training for staff, including Spanish and Creole.

Learn

  • Engage up to six youth through job shadows, and Greening Youth program.
  • Nature Explore classroom held in schools.
  • Support community educators through specific design and delivery of digital learning program. Conduct virtual environmental education and interpretive tours, reaching over 400,000 students
  • Host 12,000 annual visitors at environmental workshops, including hunting, fishing, camping, archery and orienteering.
  • Cultural training for staff.

Play

Attract an additional 100,000 visitors every year through:
  • Nature Explore classroom held on refuge, green spaces, and public parks.
  • Outdoor, enclosed archery range for archery classes and youth activities.
  • Children’s fishing pier for youth fishing, environmental education and special events.
  • Six thousand new visitors will be able to enjoy the growing tram program and new boat tours.
  • Attract 12,000-20,000 visitors through quarterly traditional and non-traditional functions, including music, film, corporate social responsibility, seminars and cultural events.
  • Environmental education summer camps and weekend programs.

Work

  • Employ six youth through internships, Pathways, YCC, AmeriCorps.

Serve

  • Recruit volunteers to support refuge and community efforts.

Minnesota Valley NWR

Refuge Name: Minnesota Valley


Click here to download the refuge description PDF

  • Provide an outdoor experience and connection to Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge for the Mall of America’s 40 million annual visitors.
  • Easily accessible by Metro light rail, bus system, interstate highway, and regional and local trail networks.
  • Partner urban youth with rural youth on field trip opportunities.
  • Provide The Blue Goose Express, transportation to the refuge from urban community sites such as schools, community centers and churches.
  • Assist schools, community centers, facilities, and communities with sustainability practices such as rain gardens, pollinator gardens, greening practices, recycling, composting, and more.

Community Analysis Summary:
Name of city and population number

  • Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area, population 3.4 million

Surrounding community demographics

  • Vibrant Hmong, Hispanic, Somali, and African-American communities
  • Communities adjacent to the refuge’s Visitor Center are 53% white, 25% black, 9% Hispanic, 4% Asian, and 8% other groups.
  • Over 33% of children in Minneapolis and 36% of children in St. Paul live below the poverty line.
  • The Twin Cities Metropolitan area is home to approximately one-third of America’s Somali population and home to the nation’s largest Hmong American population.

Project Summary:
Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge will engage underexposed and urban audiences environmentally, socially, and economically through recreation, stewardship, and discovery activities. This proposal involves the community through a community-based plan that addresses neighborhood needs and interests. We will provide opportunities for students, volunteers, mentors and elevate the refuge into a recognized leader in urban environmental education. A multi-faceted awareness campaign will reach underexposed urban communities and ensure equitable access through bilingual outreach products and enhanced access. This urban refuge model can be exported to other national wildlife refuges.

Learn

  • Nature Novice activities on- and off-site will provide a spectrum of opportunities for 500 participants to experience hands-on, real-life experiences and recreational opportunities.
  • Increase participation for 1,700 Partners School students and 3,000 Partner Teacher students to provide new experiences for target communities.
  • Expand Teacher Practicum and Student Teaching to include partnerships with local universities for 10 pre-service teachers and 10 practicum interns.

Play

  • Provide urban families with the tools and comfort to explore and enjoy the outdoors through 12 Family Outdoor Workshops per year.
  • Partner with communities on 10 annual restoration projects to develop community gardens, urban waters and habitat restoration projects, and nature exploration areas in their neighborhoods.
  • Build upon recreational opportunities adjacent to underserved neighborhoods.

Work

  • Increase youth employment opportunities both on and off refuge lands for 50 underserved youth per year.

Serve

  • Engage urban communities and leaders in creating and sustaining a grassroots Initiative Collaborative Working Group and community based Engagement Plan.
  • Recruit, mentor and train community members to develop and lead nature exploration hikes/programs within their own communities.
  • Expand Volunteer Trail Ranger Program to increase presence on the refuge.
  • Use 30 naturalist trained interns as Roving Interpretive Trail Rangers.

Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge

Refuge Name: Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge

Click here to download the refuge description PDF

Detroit River IWR_Fishing Photo.

Detroit River IWR Fishing.

Community:

  • Detroit, MI city population is 688,701, but is part of a metropolitan area of nearly 6 million people, or 7 million including Windsor, Ontario.
  • Current refuge visitation is 8,000 people annually. However, with completion of the new Visitor Center in 2016, visitation will increase dramatically.

The statistics for Detroit are disheartening, but are only part of the story:

  • The City of Detroit has lost 60% of its population since 1950. Half of the property owners don’t pay taxes. The city has declared bankruptcy.
  • Wayne County’s unemployment rate is 9.1% and 38% of Detroit residents live below the poverty level.
  • Only 4% of 11th graders in Detroit test “Proficient” in Science.
  • More than 40,000 structures meet the definition of “blight” and there are more than 6,000 vacant lots that need immediate attention.
Detroit River Greening of Detroit with Congressman Dingell.

Detroit River Greening of Detroit with Congressman Dingell.

Project Summary:
Detroit is a city on the verge of a renewal – and it is focused on the Detroit River. The Detroit RiverFront Conservancy is creating a destination in downtown Detroit with walkways, green spaces and gathering areas. The Michigan DNR is building an Outdoor Adventure Center that will introduce visitors to outdoor activities. Belle Isle, a 982-acre island, is an urban State Park. The river itself has rebounded from decades of pollution and is a first-class walleye fishery and birding destination.

The refuge will focus on three areas of emphasis: the Refuge Gateway, Community Ambassadors, and Youth Hiring.

  1. The Refuge Gateway will be a welcoming place where the people of Detroit can explore the outdoors, offering loaner equipment for birding, fishing, and other activities. We will work with transportation agencies to explore options for public transit to the Gateway site, especially to and from targeted neighborhoods. The building will be gold LEED-certified and will showcase energy efficient materials and systems.
  2. We will identify three neighborhoods in which to hire and station Community Ambassadors. Community Ambassadors will be local residents based in neighborhood recreation centers who will work with partner organizations on family programs, after school programs, environmental education, and developing green space. Partners may include Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCAs, schools, libraries, and communities of faith.
  3. We will partner with The Greening of Detroit and other organizations to offer youth employment and job development opportunities while working with reforestation and urban agriculture. The Greening of Detroit is actively working to transform vacant city lands into green open spaces, prairies, urban farms and pocket parks.

Play

  • The Michigan DNR’s Outdoor Adventure Center will offer 40,000 square feet of archery ranges, climbing walls, and fishing simulators. We will partner with the DNR to offer programs and adventures for families in downtown Detroit.
  • Community Ambassadors will offer nature walks, programs, and outdoor skills workshops through neighborhood recreation centers.
  • The Visitor Center at the Refuge Gateway will offer loaner recreational equipment such as fishing poles, binoculars, GPS units and other materials.
  • Annual Measures: Outdoor Adventure Center: 1 million visitors; Community Ambassadors: 3,000 neighborhood residents; Refuge visitation: 100,000.
Detroit River IWR Get Involved.

Detroit River IWR Get Involved.

Learn

  • Community Ambassadors will work with local schools to add hands-on experience to science curricula. They will develop schoolyard and neighborhood habitats for real-world learning.
  • Develop partnerships with Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCAs and faith-based organizations to implement after-school programs and summer day camps, especially focusing on STEM subjects.
  • Develop outdoor educational facilities at the Refuge’s Gibraltar Wetlands Unit, adjacent to Oscar A. Carlson High School.
  • Annual Measures: Community Ambassadors: 1,000 students; Partnership activities: 2,000 students; Carlson HS: 1,000 students.

Work

  • The Refuge will partner with The Greening of Detroit, U.S. Forest Service, and others to offer additional work experience for Detroit Youth.
  • The Refuge will hire and coordinate five YCC crews to work in city parks and in neighborhoods.
  • Work with partners to hire interns from local neighborhoods to partner with Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCAs and other organizations to lead after-school programs and summer day camps
  • Annual Measures: Partnership with Greening of Detroit: 50 youth; YCC: 20 youth and 5 crew leaders; Interns: 15 youth.
Detroit River YCC.

Detroit River YCC.

Serve

  • The Refuge Gateway will recruit and train volunteers to lead programs, assist families with recreational activities, and conduct education programs.
  • Community Ambassadors will recruit local community residents as program mentors and leaders. They will also work with the city of Detroit’s Adopt a Park program and develop similar activities for new green spaces.
  • Measures: Gateway site: 50 volunteers; Community Ambassadors: 25 volunteers in communities.

Valle de Oro NWR

Refuge Name: Valle de Oro

Click here to download the refuge description PDF

Community

Name of city and population number

  • Albuquerque: 662,500 people, 30% of state population
  • Two Superfund Sites are within the neighborhood, one of which is the most contaminated Superfund site in the state.
  • The state’s largest homeless family shelter is within the neighborhood

Surrounding community demographics

  • Community is between 70-90% Hispanic.
  • 93% of students receive free or reduced lunch.
  • 75% students, most of whom are Mexican immigrants, speak Spanish at home.
  • More than 55% of the population with incomes below 150% of the poverty level (2009).
  • The refuge’s southern neighbor is the Isleta Tribe.

Project Summary

One of the nation’s newest national wildlife refuges, Valle de Oro sits within a culturally diverse community that for several decades has been subjected to heavy industrial use but is now in the early stages of a community renaissance. We will integrate the refuge into people’s lives through community engagement and new and existing partnerships. Central to the proposal is opportunities for youth, including conservation education, research, career counseling, and employment. A refuge-specific Environmental Justice Plan will be developed to help identify and address serious environmental impacts affecting communities. We will develop a conservation career resource library and establish environmental education partnerships with diverse, traditional and non-traditional partners. Access options will be developed for a variety of refuge visitors that are convenient and low cost, as well as funding of transportation alternatives for off-refuge programs.

Learn

  • Community workshops will engage in refuge planning efforts.
  • More than 5,000 students will be reached through educational programs designed for K-12 schools and a refuge curriculum for a 10th grade class, reaching 75 students.
  • Establish a conservation resource library that supports local youth pursuing education and employment in wildlife conservation.
  • Service-learning projects focused on youth-designed marketing and promotional campaigns.
  • Proposals for refuge facilities developed by University students as part of their curriculum.
  • Create outdoor classrooms.

Play

  • Monthly free, regular open house events featuring art, music, cultural and natural history currently attracts an average of 50 local residents.
  • A multi-modal hike and bike trail and pedestrian access to existing access routes will give the community greater access to refuge lands.
  • A pilot bike share program will be established with partners.
  • Develop an Explore Nature App to serve as on demand tour guide-interpreter.

Work

  • Six students participating in Middle Rio Grande Youth Conservation Corps will work on the refuge, as well as off-refuge on partner and community-led projects.

Serve

  • Recruit volunteers to support educational events and programs.

Tualatin River NWR

Refuge Name: Tualatin River


Click here to download the refuge description PDF

  • Intertwine Alliance brings together more than 120 government, NGO, community and corporate partners to ensure a system-wide approach to conservation, restoration and education.
  • Bring inner city at-risk youth and veterans together into the outdoors through fly fishing excursions.
  • Gather with local tribes and urban chefs to celebrate the nourishment that nearby nature provides.
  • Transform and build Cully Park, a 25-acre brownfield, into a new environmental asset for the largest and diverse neighborhood in Portland.
  • Create miniature, pop-up festivals in various hot spots throughout the city.
  • The Portland Metropolitan Area footprint includes 4 refuges, 1 hatchery, 4 FWS offices and hundreds of FWS staff.
  • We must rethink our own nature. The Service has been rooted in tradition for over 100 years, but to create a shift in citizen awareness, education, and how people perceive what we do and why it’s important, we must shift our approach, while honoring the traditions we hold dear.
  • Redefine What it Means to be a “Refuge” A refuge is anywhere people can connect with nature. It’s where we find common ground.
  • Elevate Community Needs We will work to find common ground and meet people in their beginning places, understanding their needs and motivations long before we impose ours.
  • Market Nature with Stories, Science, and Scenery Powerful stories are abundant in the Service. We simply need to tell them in ways that are unique, entertaining, and authentic. We may be a Service, but our product is nature itself. And if we don’t market it, people will go elsewhere.
  • Practice Patience and Timing We must join conversations, not always try to lead them. We will gain by sharing and listening, and inserting our messages when appropriate and relevant.
  • No More Random Acts of Restoration and Education We often manufacture our own inefficiencies. Instead, we propose to incorporate a disciplined and deliberate approach that amplifies the work of the collective conservation community, rather than investing in disconnected, albeit well-intentioned, programs.

Community Analysis Summary:

  • Portland, OR – population 2,314,554
  • Population growth in the Portland metropolitan area increased by up to 23% in the last decade with most growth in Hispanic, black, and Asian populations.
  • Students participating within current Environmental Education programs are 32% economically disadvantaged, 20% English language learners, and 35% minorities.
  • Target Portland’s largest neighborhood, Cully Park, which has 13,300 residents within a 4.5 square miles, and 51% are people of color. Additionally, 71% are food insecure: almost 9 in 10 students qualify for free/reduced lunch, 75% utilize food stamps, but only 13% use a community garden.

Project Summary:
To effectively engage our community, we have chosen five focal areas to align our projects with – equity and inclusion, health, education, public engagement, and people. Working with Intertwine Alliance, refuge friends groups, and other urban partners, we will provide innovative approaches that can be scaled locally, regionally or nationally and can leverage social capital to achieve quick results. Through Our Common Ground campaign, we will market nature through modern, relatable, and entertaining digital and grass roots messaging. We will help transform a 25-acre brownfield into an environmental asset for Portland’s largest, and one of its most underserved, neighborhoods. An Urban Refuge Program Guide will capture our work and provide an exportable model for other partners and cities to use. We will engage youth ambassadors to capture their abilities and innovation to cultivate tomorrow’s conservation leaders. This proposal will ensure transportation options for community members most in need. And through storytelling, technology, authentic experiences, and community building, we will reach and engage our new, urban audiences.

Play

  • Fund the design of a nature play area within Cully Park conceptually designed by local students.
  • Common Ground Daycation Planner and Native Species app will be part encyclopedia, travel guide and video game to connect people with trails, transportation routes, natural wonders and native species.
  • Host cultural events on refuges to celebrate the common ground between nature and the cultural values that our community brings.

Learn

  • Fund the construction of Cully Park’s 40,000 square foot Inter-Tribal Gathering Garden - a place that will honor and educate about indigenous cultural values and ethics through holistic, culturally-significant garden design and maintenance.
  • Develop programming at the Oregon Zoo’s new Education Center and consult in the content of exhibits and programming throughout the Zoo campus for the 1.7 million annual visitors
  • The Common Ground web portal will serve as a conduit for citizens to participate with Intertwine partners and an educational platform about the benefits of nature and the National Wildlife Refuge System.
  • Build connections with the outdoors through skill building workshops and excursions that teach fishing and hunting.

Work

  • In the first year, employ 10 Youth Ambassadors to get real-world experience and the opportunity to make important decisions with real money and meaningful impact.

Serve

  • Help transform and build Cully Park, a 25-acre brownfield, into a new environmental asset that educates youth, provides green jobs and business opportunities, creates open space, and establishes a replicable community-based model for engaging in conservation and the outdoors.
  • Provide “kick-starter” funds to help maintain a community garden, including cultural programming, volunteer training and management, and travel to other urban and rural communities to share the garden’s model of social sustainability.
  • Engage local friends groups to build refuge and community volunteer programs that aim to serve the new audiences that are reached through the Urban Challenge.

Nisqually NWR

Refuge Name: Nisqually


Click here to download the refuge description PDF

  • Largest estuary restoration project in the Pacific Northwest.
  • ‘Salmon in the Classroom’ provides students hands-on experience raising salmon from eggs to fry.
  • Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM), the largest Army base in the country, is six miles from the refuge. If counted in the census, it would be the 7th largest city in Washington.
  • It has one of the nation’s 15 Wounded Warrior Battalions that helps transition soldiers to successful civilian veterans.
  • Partner with Metro Parks Tacoma to provide transportation to target audiences wanting to access natural areas.

Community Analysis:

  • Within 50 miles of Seattle; less than 25 miles from the state capital, Olympia; and 19 miles from Tacoma, the 3rd largest city in Washington, with a combined population of 3,212,440.
  • Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM), the largest Army base in the country, is six miles from the refuge and supports 40,000 active, Guard and Reserve Service members, 15,000 civilian workers, and 60,000 family members. An estimated 30,000 military retirees live within a 50-mile radius of the base.
  • Nisqually Indian Tribal Office is nine miles from the refuge, with a population of 5,700 Native Americans on the reservation, and 5,100 off.

Project Summary:
Nisqually’s Wild About Nature proposal builds upon and improves the refuge’s excellent environmental and education programs, as well as its successful and active partnerships. We will provide unique educational opportunities to engage youth from a diversity of communities, including the Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Nisqually Indian Tribe, and Tacoma Public School District. This proposal engages and supports traditional and non-traditional partners that have existing, successful youth initiatives. We will engage urban residents where they live and provide funding for transportation to bring them out to nature. We will host a Conservation Summit to discuss barriers to engagement and establish an advisory group to help connect urban audiences to nature.

Play

  • Mobile Refuge will be taken to youth programs, including Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCA/YWAC, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Nisqually Indian Tribe Youth, and JBLM.

Learn

  • Expand the refuge’s education program to serve 10,000 students by 2016.
  • ‘Scientist in the Classroom’ and ‘Salmon in the Classroom’ programs will engage diversity of students, including JBLM, the Nisqually Indian Tribe, and Tacoma Public School District, which serves more than 28,000 K-12 students. Programs will be used to train teachers, provide student career examples, and mentor opportunities.
  • Youth Fisheries Academy will provide realistic biological field and lab experience.
  • Mobile Refuge and Science Bus will engage audiences in their neighborhoods, schools, and communities.
  • Host teacher workshops, provide adult education classes and additional teacher training.

Serve

  • Partner with the Washington Conservation Corps, the Nisqually Indian Tribe, and JBLM to develop off-refuge conservation projects in the urban community.
  • Youth volunteer opportunities through AmeriCorps, the Joint Base Lewis-McChord HIRE program, and a youth crew to support urban programs.
  • Partner with colleges and universities to engage students in Wild About Nature.
  • Support partners youth initiatives of partners, including the Nisqually Indian Tribe, the Youth Advisory Council of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Outdoors Youth Initiative, and Seattle Audubon’s ‘Finding Urban Nature.’

Work

  • Two student interns from local colleges.
  • Youth employment through AmeriCorps, the Joint Base Lewis-McChord HIRE program

South Texas NWR


Refuge Name: South Texas Refuge Complex

Click here to download the refuge description PDF

  • Through “mini-grants,” communities will create public green space that reflects their neighborhoods and connects to refuge lands, vacant lots, and underutilized urban areas.
  • Bike-share program will connect communities to refuges.
  • A weekend trolley will depart from a centralized urban location establishing an urban presence and creating ease of access for urban residents.
  • Service lands are within 7-10 miles of 35 communities and a U.S. population of 1.3 million.

Community
The most southern tip of Texas, the lower Rio Grande Valley (Valley), is considered one of the fastest growing regions in the nation and includes 1.3 million residents on this side of the U.S.-Mexico border. While McAllen is the largest city in the region, there are more 35 communities within the four-county area, all of which are within 7-10 miles of refuge lands. A significant portion of the population lives in ‘colonias,’ typical border communities that are not recognized as a municipality and lack basic services.

More than 90% of the Valley’s population is identified as Hispanic and approximately 80% speak Spanish in the home. In communities closest to the refuge, Hispanics comprise 97-99% of the population. Median household income is $32,000 and 35% of residents live at or below the federal poverty line; median household income for communities nearest the refuge is under $25,000. Approximately 60% of residents graduated from high school or higher.

Project Summary:
This proposal taps into cultural strengths and addresses a regional crisis that impacts the Service’s ability to fulfill its mission – extreme poverty. The area is not yet a ‘multi-generational, college-going’ culture and students must often work at least part time. Through this program, we will support and facilitate community efforts to identify, recognize, and care for nature in their communities and, by extension, a nearby national wildlife refuge. The proposal will enhance education in one of the nation’s poorest school districts and create employment opportunities for youth. Through a diversity of educational, business, and cultural programs, we will create and protect habitat in schools yards, city pocket parks, and vacant lots, and well as create urban wildlife corridors that connect to refuge lands. This proposal provides an urban gateway to refuge lands for a region with restricted access due to poverty and/or limited transportation options.

Play

  • Create a low-cost, weekend trolley that departs from a neighboring community to provide access to local residents with limited transportation options.
  • Establish a bike-share program between refuge lands and a centralized community.
  • Create a bike route that provides local residents a centralized location to access refuge lands.
  • Create urban pocket parks and green space that reflect the needs of a neighborhood.
  • Provide bilingual, culturally appropriate, nature-related activities both on and off refuge lands.

Learn

  • Work with 45 schools, at least 33,000 students, to develop schoolyard habitats.
  • Engage students of all ages, parents, teachers, adult learning programs, and programs through educational tours and community programs developed for the public.

Serve

  • Compensate urban residents to grow native seedlings for habitat restoration projects.
  • Restore habitat in urban areas and create connectivity to refuge lands.
  • Partner with 8 neighborhood associations in McAllen, TX

Work

  • Provide year-round employment for 12-20 local students through the South Texas Youth Conservation Corps.
  • Work with 18 neighborhood associations to hire local residents to grow native seedlings for habitat restoration projects.

Standards of Excellence

Photo of Nekton sampling during SMI training. Photo Credit: Katrina Papanastassiou/USFWS

Where We Are

Children holding Get Your Goose On! flags at Togiak National Wildlife Refuge in southwest Alaska.

Know Your Community

Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma. Credit: USFWS
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.
Last modified: August 01, 2015
All Images Credit to and Courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Unless Specified Otherwise.
Twitter icon flickr icon Tumblr icon Pinterest Icon