Providence Urban Wildlife Conservation and Urban Bird Treaty Programs

With 80 percent of Americans living in and around cities, ensuring they can connect to nature is vital – both to people’s quality of life and the future of conservation. In response, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) established the Urban Wildlife Conservation Program (UWCP) with the overall goal of prioritizing conservation and recreational access efforts in urban areas so that together we can leave a legacy of abundant and healthy wildlife and wild lands for future generations of Americans to enjoy. At the core of the urban program are eight Standards of Excellence. These measurable indicators of success are also commitments to racial equity, social and environmental justice. The standards are:

  1. Know and relate to the community.
  2. Use stepping stones to engage people in nature.
  3. Build partnerships.
  4. Be a community asset.
  5. Ensure adequate long-term resources.
  6. Provide equitable access.
  7. Ensure visitors feel welcome and safe.
  8. Model sustainability. 

Providence Urban Wildlife Conservation Partnership

The Rhode Island National Wildlife Refuges have been engaged with urban communities through the Providence Urban Wildlife Conservation Partnership and the Providence Urban Bird Treaty. One of the most ethnically diverse cities in the U.S., the Providence metropolitan area anchors a population of 1.6 million people and many families do not have the resources to travel to remote national wildlife refuges. In an effort to connect school children and families with nature where they live, work, and play, partners work with school groups, using the Providence parks, to restore and maintain wildlife habitats, build nature trails and interpretive signs, and provide environmental education programs. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated the collaborative effort as the Providence Parks Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership on May 5, 2014, and designated Providence as an Urban Bird Treaty City on May 8, 2019. 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service collaborates with other conservation organizations to leverage resources, staff and funds to broadly and comprehensively reach this urban community. The partnership builds on existing projects in the city to assess habitat and wildlife capabilities in urban greenspaces, develop interpretive nature trails, and support volunteers and youth hires to perform restoration projects and deliver education programs.

Angie Pertuz, Hispanic Access Foundation Intern hired throught the PUWCP, exploring bugs with children in Providence as part of a free outdoor program called Providence Playcorps. 

Addressing Barriers

Providence, a city with a metropolitan population of 1.6 million people, is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the U.S. While many residents do not have the resources to travel to Rhode Island’s five remote National Wildlife Refuges, the city hosts a network of over 120 existing parks and greenspaces. All Providence schools are within ½ mile from one of these spaces and the majority of residents can find a park or a greenspace within a 10-minute walk. This unique opportunity allows partners in Rhode Island to build on conservation initiatives within the city alongside the Providence community. The Providence Urban Wildlife Conservation Partnership is a collaboration that started between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the RI National Wildlife Refuge Complex, the City of Providence Parks Department, and the Partnership for Providence Parks. This growing partnership strives to bring a conservation message to the neighborhoods of Providence in the places where families live, work, and play. 

The work of the Providence Urban Wildlife Conservation Partnership addresses multiple barriers regarding access to nature for residents and students, including but not limited to: 

Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management Environmental Police Officers engage with the public at Sachuest Point's annual Take Me Fishing Day Event. The game above, Backyard Bass, helps teach children how to cast a fishing rod. 
  1. To address access to nature barriers, the PUWCP...
    1. Uses accessible public city parks as areas to play, learn, relax, and explore;
    2. Provides transportation to remote National Wildlife Refuges;
    3. Co-leads the Teacher Institute with the Roger Williams Park Zoo, where teachers spend a week in the field and are introduced to field biology, wildlife conservation, and Service work with the goal of bringing these lessons back to the classroom. Teachers receive year-round support for outdoor learning and a funded field trip to Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge;
    4. Offers year-round environmental education support for educators, community members, and local partners by the Conservation Program Coordinator for in school & after school programs, summer-learning experiences, community events and public activities;
    5. Works with local partners to support community efforts relating to climate change climate change
      Climate change includes both global warming driven by human-induced emissions of greenhouse gases and the resulting large-scale shifts in weather patterns. Though there have been previous periods of climatic change, since the mid-20th century humans have had an unprecedented impact on Earth's climate system and caused change on a global scale.

      Learn more about climate change
      , tree equity, nature access, urban ecology connections and more.
  2. To address language barriers, the PUWCP...
    1. Offers free bilingual English/Spanish family-focused fishing events throughout the state to expand fishing access to the Greater Providence Community. Read more about Vamos a Pescar and Take Me Fishing Day events.
    2. Hires interns through the Hispanic Access Foundation
  3. To address financial barriers, the PUWCP...
    1. Offers programming in tandem with Summer Meal Sites and/or providing meals at family-friendly events and programs to address food insecurity barriers;
    2. Ensures all programs are free and open to the public;
    3. Supports community partners with grant writing and funding towards a common mission to increase nature access for all while bolstering healthy habitats for local and migratory wildlife.

      To quote Robert Michael Pyle "What is the extinction of a condor to a child who has never seen a wren?"  We want to introduce children to the wrens, squirrels, hawks, fish and insects living within their parks! 

      The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and our conservation and community partners continue to work with underserved communities, with a focus on connecting with community leaders and youth on conservation issues that affect their neighborhoods, parks and landscapes. Learn how you can get involved, follow the PUWCP Facebook page, or read stories about the PUWCP

Providence students on a field trip at Ninigret NWR viewing spotting forested upland birds!

Indigenous Youth STEM Camp

The Service works with conservation partners, including the Tomaquag Museum, the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, and Mystic Aquarium, to co-steward and offer an inspiring Indigenous Youth STEM Mentoring Camp at Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge. Each summer, Indigenous youth from various Tribes experiment with new engineering and science concepts, learn about collective conservation work, and participate in outdoor recreation. These young scientists and engineers expand their knowledge in environmental stewardship to protect their wild places and wildlife. View the 2024 Indigenous Youth STEM Camp booklet, with photos taken by one of the camp leaders, Nicholas Belt.

A member of the camp shooting archery at Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge. Multiple partners help lead the archery program in the camp, including the Narraganset Bow Hunters and Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. 

Download the Providence UWCP and UBT Information Sheet