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Planting trees commemorates partnership Photo by Tom MacKenzie, USFWS.

Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service join forces to engage urban youth in outdoor education and recreation at Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge

New Orleans, Louisiana -  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. signed the first local agreement implementing a partnership to encourage urban youth to learn more about conservation, the natural world, and biological sciences. The certificate declares Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge, which lies within and on the boundary of New Orleans East, a model partner site for the efforts with Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.

Signatories included: Steve Guertin, Deputy Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Arthur Thomas, President of the National Sigma Beta Club Foundation, and Stacy Armitage, Project Leader, Southeast Louisiana National Wildlife Refuges. The leadership was joined by Sigma Beta members, who helped plant a grove of twenty cypress trees at the refuge to dedicate the blossoming partnership.  The trees were donated by Thom Pepper, Executive Director, Common Ground Relief, Inc. The trees that once grew there had been destroyed by the saltwater intrusion from Hurricane Katrina.  

“We must continue to be concerned about the changing needs in our communities involving our youth, and be prepared to play an important role in their lives,” said Arthur Thomas, President of the National Sigma Beta Club Foundation, Inc.  “Our Sigma Beta Club members and Advisors are grateful to the Administration of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife and Hon. Jonathan A. Mason, Sr., 34th International President of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., for the opportunities the MOU has made possible for our Sigma Beta Club members here in the New Orleans and surrounding areas to obtain ‘hands on’ experiences related to wildlife conservation through education, awareness and future professional opportunities.” 

“This was a great opportunity to talk about potential projects to equip the members of Phi Beta Sigma and the Sigma Beta Clubs with tools they can use to help introduce the natural world to kids who live in the city,” said Steve Guertin, Deputy Director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “It really is a great way to reach out to people who may not think about visiting a National Wildlife Refuge, or science-based conservation careers.”

This partnership is the first on-the-ground action to implement the national partnership with African-American fraternity Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  The two organizations signed a historic memorandum of understanding in Washington, DC, in April 2014, establishing a partnership to provide new opportunities for urban youth to experience the natural world and promote interest in conservation and the biological sciences.

“This is only the start of our blossoming local relationship,” said Stacy Armitage, Manager for Southeast Louisiana National Wildlife Refuges.  “I am excited about expanding the partnership and introducing Sigma Betas to the wonderful natural world found on National Wildlife Refuges and the many different types of careers with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.“

“At today’s event we planted the seed about hosting all the Sigma Betas in Louisiana at Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge for an all-day refuge exploration event to include air-boat rides, fishing, and much more,” said Armitage.  The multi-faceted partnership will engage Sigma members and its Sigma Beta Club male mentoring youth groups to become environmental stewards. 

Goals include: 

(1) teaching and engaging youth in outdoor recreation on public lands to promote health through physical activity; 

(2) promoting the pursuit of biological sciences careers through stewardship and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math); 

(3) building national, regional and local conservation partnerships; and, (4) engaging Sigma as a voice on conservation issues.

Sigma Betas, Sigma’s youth auxiliary, will be engaged in hands-on activities with scientists to learn about wildlife, science, and conservation by participating in real scientific studies and conservation efforts.  Through “citizen science” activities, Sigma Betas will learn how to follow in the footsteps of conservationist, botanist, and inventor, George Washington Carver.  Carver is one of Sigma’s illustrious members, and is recognized for his groundbreaking research in plant biology and early experiments to improve soil conservation.  Carver also is  the only member of a historically African-American fraternity to be featured on the face of a U.S. coin (The 1951 half dollar). 

Sigma Betas also will learn about designing an active lifestyle, and the connection between outdoor recreation and nature through Let’s Move Outside.  The effort is part of the First Lady Michelle Obama’s initiative, Let’s Move, designed to get kids and families to get involved in physical activities on public lands.  Outdoor activity helps kids maintain a healthy weight, boosts their immunity and bone health, and lowers stress.

About the US Fish and Wildlife Service

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information, visit, or connect with us through any of these social media channels:

About Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.

Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. was founded on January 9, 1914, at Howard University, Washington, DC. As the organization celebrates 100 years of service, it has grown to amass over 150,000 members serving in nearly 700 chapters globally. As an international association of college-educated men, the organization’s programmatic areas include Bigger & Better Business, Education, Social Action, and the Sigma Beta Club, a male youth mentoring program. The organization has corporate service partnerships with the March of Dimes Foundation and St. Jude’s Children’s Research.


Phil Kloer, USFWS

Pon Dixson,
985-882-2014, M: 985-285-3613

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information on our work and the people who can make it happen, visit Connect with the Service on Facebook, follow our tweets, watch the YouTube Channel and download photos from Flickr.

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