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A Talk on the Wild Side.

The International Conservation Chiefs Academy Breaks Down Barriers

Woman writes as she looks at parrots in back of SUVCoordinator Evelyn Solano inventories yellow-naped Amazon (Amazona auropalliata) birds that were seized during an operation. Photo by Luis Brizuela

 

Evelyn Solano Brenes is the coordinator of the Wildlife Management and Conservation Program in the Guanacaste Conservation Area in Costa Rica. In September 2019, she graduated from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s International Conservation Chiefs Academy’s (ICCA) Cohort 6 and returned as a co-coach for the ICCA’s Cohort 7 in February 2021. We asked her to write about her ICCA experience and the importance of this academy.

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The Lacey Act: Quietly Protecting Native Wildlife for Over 120 Years

A dark colored fish hides underwater. The wels catfish is a potentially harmful species that will hopefully never reach the United States. Photo by Elisabeth S. Mueller (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

You may have never heard of the injurious wildlife provision of the Lacey Act. And when it’s working its best, you’ll never see the species it targets.

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Working Toward Environmental Justice

Kids in Sunday clothes with hands over heart in front of sign that says Welcome to Your National Wildlife RefugeMountain View Elementary School students recite the pledge of allegiance at a 2012 ceremony establishing Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge, just outside Albuquerque, New Mexico. USFWS Photo

By Martha Williams, Principal Deputy Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

We encourage people to get outside because nature can be rejuvenating and good for the soul. Unfortunately, for many communities—including people of color or those living in poverty—nature simply may not exist outside their doors. Environmental Justice is a way to remedy this disparity.

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Clay Stern: Rewriting history through NRDAR

drawing of park near water with lots of pathsArtist’s rendering of Diamond Alkali proposed park.

Clay Stern’s passion for Environmental Justice is evident as he recounts the industrial history of the greater New York area—and the unfair price current residents pay in the form of contamination and lack of green space. It’s clear he finds improving lives, in addition to fish and wildlife habitats, rewarding.

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Alaska Native Community and the Service Pull Together to Safeguard Pacific Walruses on Shore

A bunch of walrus on ice floe; one in front witH calfCow and calf walrus resting on sea ice. Females and young prefer to hang out on ice floes in small groups where they can easily access feeding grounds and be relatively safe from predators. USFWS Photo

The elders of the small Inupiaq village of Point Lay in the northwest reaches of Alaska remember a time when the Arctic sea ice and the animals that depend on it followed reliable patterns. In particular, they tell of a time when only a handful of Pacific walruses visited the shores of the barrier island beyond their community.

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Restoring Ecology & Building Equity on the Banks of the Rio Grande

Shot from rear, photo focused on 2 adults, 3 kids near front of group. One child holds an adult’s hand, while the two younger children hold each other’s hands.A group of people on a birding walk at Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Cecilia Beltran/USFWS

The community of Mountain View, in Albuquerque’s South Valley, may seem an unlikely setting for a federally managed wildlife refuge. Beset by some of the worst poverty rates in New Mexico’s largest city, the predominantly Hispanic neighborhood is home to asphalt and concrete manufacturers, a massive sewer treatment plant, sprawling auto salvage lots, and bulk-fuel terminals – along with high levels of air pollution, contaminated groundwater, 47 EPA-regulated sites, and two federal Superfund sites, all within an 11 square-mile area that 6,000 residents call home.

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The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, Lamprey, and Restoring a Way of Life

l:amprey with blue eyes sucks on rockIn the Northwest, Pacific lamprey play a vital role in determining ecosystem health and provide a valuable first food for Indigenous people. USFWS Photo

The Olympic Peninsula in southern Washington is home to breathtaking beauty and a variety of ecosystems. Foggy temperate rainforests, brilliant glacier-capped mountains, diverse beaches and tidal zones, and interconnected lakes and rivers provide sanctuary for an extraordinary number of species. Anchoring the peninsula is the Elwha River, 45 miles of riverine ecosystem that has provided Indigenous people sustenance for thousands of years.

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Denver’s Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge: A Refuge for All

Facility receives long-term funding increase to support inclusive urban programming.

group around sign reading Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters. All in masks

Scouting Troop 2119 conducts pollinator garden and bluebird rest stop maintenance at Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters. Photo by Tom Wall/USFWS

We know that 80% of Americans live or work near cities and that many of these urban communities represent underserved populations. The work of our Urban Wildlife Conservation Program may not always be called Environmental Justice. From our standpoint, it’s about being an asset to the community, inspiring the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts, and ensuring long-term conservation.

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What’s New with Environmental Justice? A Lot.

People, some with masks, under a blue awning that says John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum. At table underneath are plants, fliers, cups.John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, attends the Lindbergh Boulevard community meeting, Neighbors gave them ideas on how to make Lindbergh Boulevard a more safe and welcoming street, while enjoying hoverball archery, crafts, free pollinator plants, and food. Photo by Wingyi Kung/USFWS

Environmental injustice clearly is nothing new. Governments and industries across the nation have a track record of building toxic facilities and other sites in or near minority and low-income communities. Health issues stemming from such environmental contamination can contribute to shortened life expectancies, and families may be trapped in toxic environmental conditions for generations because of poverty. In part, the lack of wealth and clout often prevents positive changes in their neighborhoods. 

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Striving for Environmental Justice

girl at table colors a paper set of orange butterfly wings; adult and another child nearby. On other side of table, 2 adults watchA child decorates a pair of butterfly wings to wear at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Photo by Wingyi Kung/USFWS

Throughout our history, communities of color, low-income families, and rural, Indigenous people have suffered from air pollution, water pollution, and toxics sites near their communities. Environmental Justice looks to change that grim reality: to ensure fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all in the environmental arena. Environmental Justice communities define the environment as “where we live, work, play, learn, and pray.” In recent months, Environment Justice has become a key tenet of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. We are working to ensure that future environmental challenges and opportunities in the United States are more equitably distributed, so, as Martha Williams, the Principal Deputy Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, says, “Your economic status or race does not determine whether your neighborhood gets a national wildlife refuge or a wastewater treatment plant.” We are also working to reduce the impact and frequency of environmental crises in Environmental Justice communities. Here are a few ways we are working toward Environmental Justice.

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