With 80% of Americans living in cities, how do we connect urban America with our wild places, such as national wildlife refuges? How do we teach a new generation to love the land? How do we help children find inspiration in nature all around them? America will have much of their direct contact with nature while in an urban setting, thereby shaping the nation’s conservation values, ethics and priorities, and requiring the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reach beyond our boundaries.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s vision for increasing relevancy with urban citizen lies in the document entitled “Conserving the Future: Wildlife Refuges and the Next Generation”. This initiative will establish measures to help define and achieve standards of excellence for urban refuges, create a framework for creating new urban partnerships, and establish a refuge presence in ten demographically and geographically varied cities in the U.S.
Regional Examples of Urban Refuges
Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge
The Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge is 143,954 acres of northern Everglades wetlands located in the urban Palm Beach County, Florida. The native vegetative communities of the Everglades ecosystem found on the Refuge include a mosaic of wet prairies, sawgrass ridges, sloughs, tree islands, cattail communities, and a 400 acre cypress swamp, which is the largest intact cypress area remaining in the eastern Everglades system. These communities were historically rainfall driven and had low nutrient levels, and are now a wildlife oasis for the local area.
Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge
Located in the city limits of New Orleans, Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge is one of tne of the last remaining marsh areas adjacent to Lakes Pontchartrain and Borgne. The refuge contains a wide variety of wildlife habitat, including bottomland hardwoods, freshwater and brackish marshes, lagoons, canals, borrow pits, and natural bayous. As an important stop over along the Mississippi Flyway, these diverse habitats meet the needs of approximately 340 bird species throughout the year.
Regional Examples of Urban Partnerships
U.S. Fish and Wildlife offices in Georgia have partnered with the West Atlanta Watershed Alliance and several other groups to restore creeks and streams in the west Atlanta area. This includes Proctor Creek, a stream system in a historic neighborhood that is home to several pockets of significant urban wildlife. Because the watershed is in the middle of Atlanta, FWS utilized citizen science through community volunteers and interns from neighboring universities to carry out sampling efforts, and are using the information collected to guide future restorations projects.
South Fork Partnership
The South Fork Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership is collecting and analyzing data on plant and animal populations as well as water quality at the impaired stream joining of the north and south fork of Peachtree Creek. The nine partners, including the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, will build creek access and engage underserved communities in monitoring and sustaining current restoration and green infrastructure efforts, in order to return this historic waterway to its rightful place as a respected asset of the region’s natural resources for the benefit of people and wildlife.