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A Talk on the Wild Side.

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.


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. 


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.


Our Public Civil Rights Program Ensures Access for All to Public Lands

3 girls in safety vests sit in woods in circle. Fourth person in vest in background crouching down Students from Scott School Elementary in Portland, Oregon, attend Cully Critter Cruise at Cully Park and learn about biodiversity in an urban setting, storm water management, native plants and ethnobotany, entomology, and careers in construction and design. Photo by USFWS

What does outdoor access mean to you? Do you have a space nearby where you can enjoy hiking, fishing, birdwatching, hunting, or experi­encing wide-open spaces? Not everyone does, and that is why we are committed to ensuring equal access to public lands through our Public Civil Rights Program.


Conservation Plan in Texas Promotes Species Habitat Restoration, Supports Environment Justice

pinkish white salamander with what looks like a maroon scarf crawls on rocksWild Texas blind salamanders are only found in Edwards Aquifer. This specimen is held in refugia at San Marcos Aquatic Resource Center. Photo by Ryan Haggerty/USFWS

The Edwards Aquifer provide s water to over 2 million people and thousands of agricultural irrigators in the south central Texas region. Additionally, its unique artesian springs and aquatic environment are home to a number of endangered and threatened species that occur nowhere else.


New Bridge Leads to Sustainable Infrastructure at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

bridge span rests on rock abutmentsA 16-foot thermoplastic bridge crosses Bridge Creek at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. The span is 100% post-consumer and industrial recycled plastic. The new bridge span rests on rock abutments that were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. Photo by USFWS

The new bridge at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon is more than a way across the creek. It’s also a bridge to the future of sustainable building.


Undercover for Wildlife

A person wearing an olive-colored suit that covers their head and bodySpecial Agent Jim Dowd in a bug suit doing surveillance in the field. Photo courtesy Jim Dowd


Jim Dowd remembers exactly where he was when he learned he’d been offered a position as a special agent for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Fittingly, he was undercover — as an investigator for the General Services Administration Office of Inspector General conducting surveillance at a gas station for a case involving an individual exploiting a government credit card.

In his 11 years as a special agent for the Service, Dowd has used his criminal investigation skills to target not just individuals but networks that exploit vulnerable wildlife in the United States and abroad for profit. He often works undercover to purchase tiger skins, eagle feathers, elephant ivory, and other trafficked goods.


Billets to Barrels: The Origins of Conservation Funding

2 elk collide in grasslandTwo male elk spar during fall rutting season. NPS Photo

By Jeff Fleming

Several weeks ago, I watched a massive bull elk in the White Mountains of Arizona move ghostlike through the forest where the pinon-juniper woods transcend to ponderosas. Its shadowy form slipped through thickets in a silence that stuns, given its large mass. He sprouted velvety antlers in thick beams that speak to what will come when they reach full bloom in the fall. Fulfilling what is coded in the coiled double helix of his DNA, he will vie for the right to carry on the next generation, sparring furiously with other bulls similarly intent.


Craig Brook National Fish Hatchery – Culturing Atlantic Salmon for Over 150 Years

2 people in irange waders stand in indoor tank around smaller tank. One has hands in small tankFisheries biologists prepare Atlantic salmon for spawning at Craig Brook National Fish Hatchery. USFWS Photo

Craig Brook National Fish Hatchery, at Craig’s Pond Brook near Orland, Maine, is one of the oldest national fish hatcheries in the United States and one of the original think-tanks of fish culture research that led to many modern fish culture practices. 



Curator's Corner: Catfish Caves, Beep, and Famous FWS Alums

clay jar about 2 feet high  

Clay Catfish Caves

To mimic the spawning conditions that catfish seek out in the wild, fisheries biologists must create cave-like cavities in their hatchery ponds. Nowadays plastic barrels are used, but as recently as the mid-2000s, handmade clay jars were used at hatcheries that raise catfish. The jars are 1.5 inches thick and measure 2 feet high with a 14 inch diameter.  This clay catfish jar is from Inks Dam National Fish Hatchery in Texas and was last used there in 2006. It was handmade by Marshall Pottery in eastern Texas in the 1930s. Before the clay jars, attempts at creating suitable artificial spawning habitat included constructing wood boxes and using other items that were easy to obtain including metal barrels and milk cans. (APRIL GREGORY)



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