Read the report on workshops with urban community representatives to understand barriers, motivations, and strategies for connecting urban audiences with refuges, wildlife, and the outdoors: Barriers and Strategies to Connecting Urban Audiences to Wildlife and Nature

Workshops with community leaders near seven urban refuges revealed how outdoor recreation opportunities benefit urban residents; the barriers to participate in the outdoors; and strategies for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to better connect and engage urban residents. Common themes heard include:

Here’s some of what we’ve heard from conversations with residents in urban areas across the country…

What barriers prevent greater access or enjoyment of outdoor recreation opportunities by urban communities?

  • Feelings of otherness for minorities: uncomfortable being the only minority in the outdoors and not being represented in the cultural and historical dialogue about America’s natural landscapes and conservation
  • Fear for safety, health, and discomfort in the outdoors
  • Negative cultural stigmas about working outdoors

     

“I told my grandmother I was going to be a wildlife biologist and work outdoors. She said, ‘No, no, we worked too hard for you to be outdoors.’ People equate working in an office with upper-level positions. There is still thinking like that among Latinos. It’s a very real barrier... My husband’s dad didn’t think he had a real career because he was outside teaching kids to fish.” (statement from a community workshop participant)

What can be done to promote greater participation in outdoor recreation and use of refuges by urban communities?

  • We can’t just say “come visit the refuge.” Residents that fear the outdoors need more support when being introduced to nature and partnering with trusted community organizations is a good way to provide that support.
  • Urban protected areas are themselves a great strategy for introducing people to nature because they are less removed from the city and therefore less intimidating for some people – we should promote them and make them more accessible!
  • Enhance youth volunteer recruitment so youth can learn about career opportunities in natural resources management and gain valuable work experience. By focusing on career opportunities, refuges can play a role in developing “conservation leaders” for the next generation.

Documents

Understanding Urban Audiences; Community workshop results for Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge

Results from a community workshop that help the Service understand how to engage urban audiences.

Understanding Urban Audiences; Community workshop results for Don Edwards San Fancisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge

Report from a community workshop to help the Service understand how to connect with residents around Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Understanding Urban Audiences; Community workshop results for Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge

A report from a community listening session at Rocky Mountain Arsenal NWR to help the Service understand how to better engage the local community.

Understanding Urban Audiences; Community workshop results for Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge

A report from a community workshop with residents around Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge to help the Service understand how to better engage local communities.

Understanding Urban Audiences; Community workshop results for Arthur R Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge

A report from a community workshop with residents around ARM Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge to help the Service understand how to better engage the community.

Programs

A bison grazing in the foreground with mountains and a city and electrical infrastructure in the background
The Urban Wildlife Conservation Program improves lives by expanding access to green space, education and outdoor recreation for Americans living in and around cities. Program members work to clear social and historical barriers and foster new connections that advance conservation and strengthen...
A bright blue sky obstructed by fluffy white clouds reflected off of a stream shot from inside a kayak
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages an unparalleled network of public lands and waters called the National Wildlife Refuge System. With more than 560 refuges spanning the country, this system protects iconic species and provides some of the best wildlife viewing opportunities on Earth.

Facilities

Sunset with clouds in the sky, building on top of hill overlooking wetland filled with grass and other plants
Located in the outskirts of Portland, Oregon, Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge is one of only a handful of urban national wildlife refuges across the country. Situated within the floodplain of the Tualatin River, the refuge supports some of the most abundant and varied wildlife in the...
White pelican flying over a marsh with a city in the background.
In the heart of California's high-tech industry lies a wildlife oasis in an urban sea with 30,000 acres of habitat for millions of migratory birds and endangered species. Established in 1972 through local activism, the refuge provides not only critical habitat for threatened and endangered species...
Four bison walking in the prairie with the Denver skyline in the background
Welcome to Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, it's free to visit! Located just 10 miles northeast of downtown Denver, you can step into nature and see the native wildlife that call the Refuge home. Bison, deer, raptors, songbirds, waterfowl, prairie dogs, and coyotes are just a few of...
Minnesota River in foreground with brown marsh grasses covered in fog in background.
Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge is a thriving urban refuge where nature connects people, communities and wildlife. Where diverse communities are welcomed through meaningful connections, educational opportunities and recreational experiences, while conserving wildlife habitat in the...
Sunset in the C Impoundments at A.R.M. Loxahatchee NWR
Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge is one of the largest urban wildlife refuges in the nation with more than 145,000 acres of land where visitors can unplug from the stresses of daily life and reconnect with our natural surroundings.
A view of the Occoquan River at Featherstone NWR
Featherstone National Wildlife Refuge is a 325 acre sanctuary of upland forest and freshwater tidal marsh, which provides critical habitat for migratory birds, wintering waterfowl, and a variety of mammalian species. Currently the refuge is only accessible by non-motorized watercraft.
A sunrise over a pond at Occoquan Bay NWR
Twenty miles south of Washington, D.C., where the Potomac meets the Occoquan River, lies Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge: an oasis for migratory birds and busy city residents seeking a quiet escape from development.
A bald eagle on a branch.
Eighteen miles south of Washington D.C., on the banks of the Potomac River, lies a peninsula known as Mason Neck. Here, on February 1, 1969, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service created the first national wildlife refuge established specifically for the protection of our nation’s symbol, the bald...