More than 100 national wildlife refuges are within 25 miles of large and medium-size cities. How many urban refuges are truly accessible to people who have physical, financial and other issues that might be barriers to getting into nature? Or how can wildlife refuge staff work with others to provide those connections to increase visitation and better connect people to nature?
That’s the question being researched as the Urban Transportation Connections Study begins collecting data and setting a framework for identifying needed improvements. The study will eventually collect transportation-related data for all 101 refuges close to large and medium-size cities. That will allow the Refuge System to establish baseline information about the condition of transportation facilities. The data will be available to all Refuge System staff.
The effort, being coordinated with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and a consultant, is first starting with seven of the regional priority wildlife refuges that will include on-site visits and data collection into 2017 at Steigerwald Lake/Pierce, WA; Santa Ana, TX; Detroit River International Refuge; Bayou Sauvage, LA; Occoquan Bay, VA; Rocky Mountain Arsenal, CO; and Don Edwards San Francisco Bay Refuge. The study team’s first site visits will take them to Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge October 20- 21 and Bayou Sauvage Refuge November 14-15.
The study is to be completed by September 2017. Ultimately, it will summarize existing conditions, uncover gaps in transportation services and systems and recommend improvements.
The resulting transportation plans will also identify potential partnerships and funding sources, and help refuge staff begin navigating the route toward equitable access.
The study is part of the Urban Wildlife Conservation Program and funded through the Service’s Federal Lands Transportation Program in conjunction with the FHWA.