National Wildlife Refuge System

Teaching a New Generation

The times, they are a-changin’.  In fact, the times have already changed in the U.S.

Today, 80 percent of residents live in big and little cities, far removed from the rural communities that brought close connections to natural resources. The white population is projected to be 47 percent in 2050, compared to 85 percent in 1960. Hispanic Americans will make up nearly 30 percent of the population in 2050, up from just 3.5 percent in 1960.

The Conserving the Future Urban Wildlife Refuge Initiative is one way the Refuge System is working within the context of change. The initiative is assembling strategies to help the Refuge System build sustainable support among a new conservation constituency. 

“How do we teach a new generation to love the land when pavement is what they usually meet?” asked Marcia Pradines, co-chair of the Urban Initiative implementation team.  “How do we help children find inspiration in nature when they spend so much time indoors and plugged in?  Those are just the questions the Urban Initiative is designed to answer.”

Urban Academy: Measuring Up to Standards of Excellence
One step is the Urban Academy, Sept. 23-25 at the National Conservation Training Center in West Virginia, where more than 20 Friends will join about 150 participants to learn not only how to understand cultural diversity, but also how to overcome barriers, create partnerships and learn how to engage new audiences, work with businesses and become a “sustainability” asset in the community. Critical elements of the Urban Academy will be live streamed for those not attending.  

Central to the Urban Academy will be training in Standards of Excellence to help refuges better serve urbanized communities. Berk Moss, with the Friends of Tualatin National Wildlife Refuge, OR, will be on a panel discussing engagement, one of the seven standards.  Bev Arnoldy, with the Friends of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, WA, will speak on engaging the corporate community.  The Standards of Excellence will be available for public comment on by August 26.  


More than 20 Friends will attend the Urban Academy next month to learn how to create partnerships with urban audiences. These bison are grazing outside Denver, CO, at Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge.
Credit: USFWS

Additionally, the online America’s Wild Read, beginning August 26, will let people participate in discussions about Cities Wild, a book of essays on urban nature. The first essay is “Zip-A-Dee-Do-Dah” by Emily Heistand, who makes the point that “how we talk about the earth…powerfully affects what our species does within the compass of the earth and what kind of ecosystem ethics we are able to conceive.”  Other essays in the series are “A Paradise of Frogs” by John Hanson Mitchell, “Disturbing the Universe” by Betsy Hilbert, and “The Extinction of Experience” by Robert Michael Pyle.

A new section of the Refuge System Web site reports progress on all aspects of the Conserving the Future vision.

Seven Partnerships Bring Refuge Presence to the City
During the Urban Academy, eight partnerships will be announced, each providing an opportunity for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to work with key community organizations with an interest in conservation and the environment:

  • Creating Urban Oasis in New Haven Harbor Watershed, CT
  • Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Chicago
  • Houston Wilderness
  • Providence Diversity of Wildlife, Lands and Communities Project
  • Masonville Cove Urban Wildlife Refuge, Baltimore
  • Lake Sammamish Kokanee Salmon Partnership, Seattle
  • Los Angeles River Rover

Another aspect of the Urban Initiative is the first-ever urban audience analysis, including research with focus groups at six refuges, to better understand urban residents’ perspective on the benefits and barriers to outdoor recreation. The Refuge System’s Branch of Human Dimensions along with USGS and North Carolina State University will undertake the analysis, which also will include literature review and case studies.

Urban Initiative Fact Sheet

Understanding Urban Audiences

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Last updated: August 26, 2013