Wildlife Refuges: A Community Asset

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There is much we have learned about working with the community through the Urban Refuge Program. Like the wildlife we care so deeply for, we continue to learn and adapt to our complex and changing environment. To maximize the benefit our four National Wildlife Refuges offer to the Portland-Vancouver area we've focused our efforts by connecting in neighborhoods, welcoming all to refuges, and working with coalitions.

Read on for a sample of the ways we worked in these three areas in 2016. For a deeper dive, download the 2016 Urban Refuge Program Report.

Connecting in Neighborhoods 

Hooked on Nature Through Fishing

The power of fishing to connect kids — and grown-ups — to the outdoors is evident in the gleaming faces of children hauling in their first catch and the adults saying, “It’s my turn.” Inner-city fishing opportunities aren’t abundant in Portland, but that doesn’t stop visionary partners from casting a line with kids anywhere they can find a small pond or some open grass.

In that spirit, we continued to support Soul River’s Celebration of Wild Steelhead, a park-based event in North Portland that introduces kids to fly fishing. Year after year, it grows in attendance and partnerships. In 2016, we also got on board (or should we say outboard) with I’m Hooked Inc.’s 28-year-strong I’m Hooked event at Henry Hagg Lake that, through tremendous volunteer support, gets kids from the city out on the lake in boats to try and land that first big catch. 

Gills and Gears in Portland Parks

Sunday Parkways, a Portland staple that draws thousands for a bicycle ride in the city, connected fun-seeking pedalers to clean water by celebrating the return of salmon to SE Portland.

USFWS joined the Salmon Celebration by highlighting a lesser-known fish species, bringing a display of live lamprey and info about USFWS’s role in the restoration of Crystal Springs Creek. Through engaging conversations, we reinforced the value of a community-driven, self-sustaining model for watershed stewardship that creates a healthy, vibrant area for people and wildlife. 


Welcoming All to Refuges 

Welcoming in Relevant Ways

A collaboration with Univision and NE Portland partners Club Aves and Hacienda Community Development Corp led to a transcreated video announcement of Ridgefield Refuge and its annual BirdFest and Bluegrass event in October.

Transcreation involves not only language relevancy, but visual and cultural relevancy. The video, featuring a Club Aves family exploring the Refuge with a USFWS guide, aired over 70 times on Univision reaching over 400,000 local viewers. 

    Deepening Cultural Connections

    Ridgefield Refuge’s Cathlapotle Plankhouse, a living Chinookan-Indian dwelling, is an icon of the Refuge’s archaeological record and honors the continued presence of indigenous people and their stewardship of the land.

    With the help of many Native partners, including Title VII Indian Education School Programs, Native American Youth and Family Center, Portland State University’s Indigenous Nations Studies Program, Clark College, and local Tribes, the Refuge is supporting natural and cultural education throughout many layers of the indigenous community. By the time we welcome guests to the Refuge and the Plankhouse, they have a deeper sense of place and better understanding of the landscape. 

    Trails for All

    A local organization that provides trail information to hikers with disabilities, Access Recreation selected Tualatin River and Steigerwald Lake Refuges as sites to add to their growing collection of featured opportunities.

    Access Recreation worked with refuge staff to document the experience of visiting each refuge, including recreation amenities, trail characteristics, and wayfinding. Often, hikers with disabilities are considered in outdoor recreation, but not directly consulted or marketed to. Access Recreation is helping enrich everyone’s experience at our refuges and beyond. See the results at accesstrails.org


    Working with Coalitions

    Supporting Online Collaboration

    One of the Portland-Vancouver Metro Area’s largest conservation coalitions, The Intertwine Alliance, launched a new website with financial and technical support from the USFWS. The site supports over 160 local non-profits, government agencies, and private businesses in their collaborative work around parks, trails and natural areas. Key features creating positive impact in the community include:

    • The Intertwine Project Network where partners can recruit help and coordinate efforts on local initiatives.
    • The Outside Voice blog that shares partner stories and perspectives.
    • An interactive map of the complete system of parks, trails, and natural areas in the Portland-Vancouver Metro Area.


    We All Deserve a Daycation

    Exploring the impressive collection of nearby parks, trails, and waterways got a lot smarter in 2016 with the beta launch of the Daycation Mobile App. Daycation, a concept developed by partners of The Intertwine Alliance, asks the community to take their favorite things to do outside and turn them into adventures that are shared in the app. It’s equal parts activity finder and social engagement for people to share their views on nature with each other. Through the Urban Refuge Program, the USFWS has been deeply engaged with getting the app to the beta testing phase, and planning a large public launch in 2017.