The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced in late March that Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge in Albuquerque and John Heinz at Tinicum National Wildlife Refuge in Philadelphia each will receive $1 million above base annual funding to engage urban communities and youth in conservation and outdoor recreation.

The two are the third and fourth national wildlife refuges to receive the funding boost in perpetuity. California’s San Diego Bay Refuge has received $1 million extra since 2014 to engage residents of the San Diego and Los Angeles areas, and Oregon’s Tualatin River Refuge has received the boost since last year to engage residents in the Portland- Vancouver area.

Valle de Oro Refuge – five miles from downtown Albuquerque – has been working extensively with partners to connect with families and youth through conservation, culture and community.

The refuge, established in 2012, “hasthe potential to become an essential ecological, educational and recreational resource for families and kids in the Albuquerque area and across the region. Our goal is to accelerate this process by giving the refuge’s outstanding staff additional resources to build and strengthen relationships with community partners and residents,” Service Director Dan Ashe said in a March 22 announcement.

John Heinz at Tinicum Refuge – across Interstate 95 from Philadelphia International Airport – has been coordinating with Audubon Pennsylvania and community groups to close the gap between local communities and green spaces.

Recent successes include year-round youth employment programs, environmental education in public schools and restoration of community gardens. The $1 million boost is designed to enable the Service to continue engaging local residents at the refuge and nearby areas such as Cobbs Creek and Bartram’s Garden.

“If we want to ensure that conservation is relevant to future generations, we have to put more energy into reaching people where they live, which is becoming more and more in urban centers,” Ashe said in a March 31 announcement. “We can pay lip service to that reality, or we can start putting our money where our mouth is. That’s exactly what we are doing in Philadelphia, where we have a unique opportunity to connect residents of one of the largest metropolitan areas on the East Coast to natural areas like John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge.”

The Service recognizes that, with increased urbanization, youth may lose their connection to the natural world. In response, the Service created the Urban Wildlife Conservation Program
(http:// www.fws.gov/urban/index.php), which helps national wildlife refuges create partnerships and reach out to urban communities.