Conserving the Nature of America
Press Release
Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership Designation Brings Funding and Support for Outdoor Education and Green Space Conservation in Philadelphia

October 8, 2015

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The partnership will provide education programs for youth in the city year-round and provide opportunities for residents to explore the great outdoors.

The partnership will provide education programs for youth in the city year-round and provide opportunities for residents to explore the great outdoors. Credit: USFWS

PHILADELPHIA - Today U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe joined officials from the William Penn Foundation, National Audubon Society and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to dedicate Philadelphia as an Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership city. This special designation is part of the Service’s Urban Wildlife Conservation Program, which has provided more than $1.1 million since 2013 to partnerships across the nation to connect city residents with nature.

“With more than 80 percent of Americans living in urban communities, the future of conservation depends on our ability to engage urban residents to protect natural resources,” said Ashe. “We created the Urban Wildlife Conservation Program to support local partnerships that are connecting with communities and neighborhoods with limited access to nature. Philadelphia is a model for how partners can successfully bring nature into the city.”

With this designation, Audubon Pennsylvania will receive $49,000 this year to support the partnership through the Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration Grant Program, which is administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and supported by the Service, Environmental Protection Agency, Fed Ex and Bank of America. This builds upon a $30,000 grant to support the partnership in 2014, which was from the same program.

The funding will support efforts in Southwest Philadelphia to create neighborhood green spaces and parks, provide environmental education programs in schools, improve access and transportation to the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum, connect the refuge to the Circuit trail network and provide jobs to young people throughout the year. Dozens of other partners are contributing technical and financial support, including the school district of Philadelphia, Eastwick Friends and Neighbors Coalition, Friends of Heinz Refuge, City Lights, Student Conservation Association, TreePhilly, City of Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, and many others.

“Engaging people with nature is at the heart of the Audubon tradition. By connecting people in urban environments with the natural world, we are laying the foundation for more effective conservation – and helping to create more livable, vibrant communities for people and birds,” said David O’Neill, VP for Conservation Strategies for the National Audubon Society. “Our work in Philadelphia is a powerful example of community conservation, and it’s the result of a dynamic partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge, the city, the William Penn Foundation, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, local residents and many others.

“National Fish and Wildlife Foundation is honored to be a partner in addressing some of Philadelphia’s most-pressing conservation challenges,” said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF. “Urban and suburban habitat restoration is an ideal way to improve water quality, protect green space and engage local communicates in reconnecting with nature.”

The William Penn Foundation also awarded a $146,000 grant to the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge to support their environmental education efforts, further bolstering the partnership. This funding will support low-cost and free kayak tours to residents living adjacent to the refuge in Eastwick and Kingsessing. The tours, which will be operating in cooperation with L.L. Bean, will educate residents about the Tinicum Marsh, one of the largest fresh-water tidal marshes in the Delaware River watershed.

“John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge is an ideal place to engage people around environmental stewardship. We are pleased to support its staff’s outstanding efforts to bring urban communities closer to the waterways that flow through this exceptional natural area, educate them about the value of clean rivers to this place, their communities and region, and inspire them to help protect it,” said Andrew Johnson, Program Director for Watershed Protection at the William Penn Foundation.

Philadelphia is one of 17 urban wildlife refuge partnerships across the country, including Atlanta, Ga., Baltimore, Md., Minneapolis, Minn. The Service’s Urban Wildlife Conservation Program also supports 21 urban bird treaty cities that conserve migratory birds through education, citizen science and conservation action in urban and suburban areas. Philadelphia was designated as an urban bird treaty city in 2009.

 

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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. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.

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