Photo:From trash to art - A close up of trash collected from the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers / Thia Xiong, USFWS
“On a cold, wet morning I began my journey with the river. I was new to a group of seasoned environmental stewards. Our mission was to gather debris along the banks of the river. While traveling to our destination, I watched the strange mix of woodland and industry pass by along the banks. I began to imagine what this river, known as ‘misiziibi’ or Great River, to the Anishinaabe, and the Mississippi to us, felt like before the cities filled the horizon.” Jeanette Dickinson Papenfuss is a visual artist with ArtStart, an organization based in Saint Paul, Minnesota, whose mission is to “inspire artistic creativity and illuminate the connections among people, ideas and the environment through engaging artists, children, families, and communities in quality arts education experiences.”
As Twin Cities Urban Waters Project’s selected artist, Jeanette envisioned an art piece that would not only narrate the story of our Mississippi River, but also educate and advocate for its protection. The final product, River Prism, towers over onlookers with panels that were put together using trash collected from the river, while its prism shape provides three unique perspectives into the life of this great being.
The first side is a map illustrating the Mississippi River from its headwaters in Itasca to its final destination at the Gulf of Mexico. This map emphasizes the river’s journey, its countless tributaries, and how these collective waters, and ultimately the trash that ends up in them, travel to our greater oceans. On the second side, the prism displays some of the migratory birds that utilize the Mississippi Flyway. The Mississippi is one of four major flyways used by nearly half of the migratory bird species and forty percent of waterfowl in North America. Imagery on the third side was inspired by the Native American name for North America, Turtle Island, with its top panel focusing on Pike Island, otherwise known as Wita Tanka by the Dakota. This location is the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers, or Bdote, the center of the universe and place of origin for Dakota people.
River Prism expresses the river’s essential role in our lives and those of our communities. This is an artwork that provides the river a voice, imposing the question, “How important am I the river, the world wide water systems, and ultimately the wellbeing of all that depend on my health, including yourself?” Jeanette encourages viewers to consider the unique position Minnesotans are in, living at the headwaters. She conveys that “we set the standards for the rest of the United States, Turtle Island, for protecting and cherishing, not only our watersheds, but ultimately our planet.”
The sculpture was made possible through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration Grant Program. Its inception occurred over the course of eighteen months, with thorough planning phases involving five core partners: ArtStart; Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge; Minnesota Valley Refuge Friends; Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa, and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. With the help of these organizing partners, 400 community volunteers, 200 youth and young adults, and 10 corporate partners, 6 acres of land were improved by removing buckthorn and woody invasive species, 4,500 native plugs were planted, 3.2 miles of riparian restoration occurred, and 4.5 tons of trash were removed from river wetlands.
The sculpture was revealed to volunteers, staff, and partners in November 2019 at Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge’s Bloomington Education and Visitor Center, where it currently remains for viewing.
As part of the 3 Billion Birds campaign, the North American Bird Conservation Initiative has created messaging that highlights five ways that birds and bird habitat benefit people. An appealing and accessible flier shows how bird habitat supports clean water, birds and their habitat support your health, birds are good for the economy, birds benefit your beverages (think coffee and wine!), and bird habitat boosts property values. Each week, we’ll release an infographic that features one of these categories of bird benefits; starting with today’s clean water infographic (attached for both twitter and instagram). Please share the flier and the infographics broadly!
A Talk on the Wild Side Podcast: Conservation in Cities
Listen to this great podcast from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service blog “A Talk on the Wild Side” about community engagement in wildlife conservation and education in cities, featuring Chicago, Reno and Portland…
Chicago FWS biologist Shawn Cirton teaching birdwatching to two children in the Forest Preserves of Cook County. USFWS
Next Generation of Wildlife Photographers/Videographers
Get ready National Geographic! Introducing the next generation of nature photographers and videographers - the Digital Media students from Houston’s Furr High School. These high school students spent the weekend on Aransas National Wildlife Refuge where they were able to get some great experience and capture a diversity of photos and video of white-tailed deer, alligators, raccoons and a lot of different birds, including some very distant whooping cranes. This opportunity was made possible thanks to a partnership between the high school and the Service’s Houston Community Partnerships and Engagement Program. Photo by FWS.
A weekend hunting trip coordinated between the Service’s Houston Community Partnership and Engagement Program, the Texas Youth Hunting Program, Furr High School and private landowners was a great success! Six of 10 young hunters harvested nine deer. Participants not only spent time in deer blinds, they practiced safety, discussed hunter ethics, learned about wildlife identification and how hunting can be used as a land management tool. The kids got in some fishing and slept under the stars. Not a bad weekend for Houston city kids, most of whom have never been hunting or camping.
On Saturday, September 28, 2019, the Arthur R. Marshall
Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge partnered with members of the Phi Beta
Sigma Fraternity and Our Lady Queen of Peace Church in planting 20 cypress
trees along the refuge’s entrance in celebration of the 2nd annual Urban
National Wildlife Refuge Day. Over 25 members of the fraternity and church
worked hand in hand with refuge staff in restoring a small segment of a once
vast cypress swamp habitat while also beautifying the entrance to the refuge
for decades to come.
It is always an environmental educator’s preference to teach about nature while in nature. That is not always an option for young people undergoing treatment in a hospital setting. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Houston Community Partnerships and Engagement (HCPE) program is working with hospitals and other health providers in Houston to serve young people who, for health-related reasons, are unable to benefit from the healing properties of nature. In partnership with the Student Conservation Association and the University of Houston’s Jack J. Valenti School of Communications, HCPE is developing short, nature-based videos that engage young patients in hospital rooms and inspire them and their families to visit, enjoy and benefit from these wild places.
“Thank you for providing an opportunity for our kids to
participate in something meaningful this summer, and giving us access to
something fun and educational that we likely would not have been able to do
financially had there been a fee.”
That’s what a parent had to say
about their child’s participation in the 2019 Marsh-In Summer Camp on the Don
Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Alviso, CA. Every year
the Refuge’s Environmental Education Center hosts this unique and cost-free opportunity
for local kids to experience nature among wildlife and wetland habitat, in the
middle of a densely populated urban area.
This summer the camp celebrated its
39th year. It’s a tradition that refuge staff, local families and
returning volunteers look forward to renewing. In fact, as word of the camp has
spread in the community, applications have grown, topping 100 this year. But thanks
to an increase in staff and available volunteers, the Refuge was able to expand
the number of openings to 72.
The Marsh-In camp is a day program,
each day built around a wildlife-related theme. Leading off is Bird Day,
followed by Fish Day and Mammal Day. For each, presenters bring in live animals,
allowing the campers an up-close encounter with the wildlife found on and around
the Refuge. Older campers are welcomed back later in the week for an overnight stay
under the stars and a chance to learn first-hand about nocturnal creatures.
Many families have had several
children attend over the years. Refuge staff and volunteers talk about the consistent
gratitude shown by parents. Again and again they hear how much the kids look
forward to the camp experience. One mother even described how disappointed her
children were when a family vacation prevented them from attending.
Beyond wildlife-themed education,
the Marsh-In camp represents a tradition of maturation and leadership.
Teresa Yang started with the camp as
a first grader and returned every summer for six years. She then became one of the
Refuge’s Habitat Heroes, joining other middle- and high-schoolers as group
leaders who facilitate camp activities.
This summer was Yang’s 12th,
and last, with the camp. Asked why she kept coming back, she said, “When I
reached 4th grade, a night away from my parents and under the stars seemed
almost dreamlike.” But she got more out of it than she expected. “Habitat
Heroes was the first time I was put into a leadership position.” She also stressed
the camaraderie: “I love the community created by all of the staff members and
volunteers. Despite how infrequently we see each other, we’re almost like a
Toria Rico is the 2019 Summer Camp Coordinator at the
Environmental Education Center of the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National
A pair of Great Lakes Piping Plovers have nested at Montrose
Beach in Chicago this summer. The spot
they picked is adjacent to a world-renowned bird sanctuary and a growing dune
ecosystem supported by the Chicago Park District Natural Areas program, and
dedicated stewards, volunteers, and supporters.
The nesting spot is also adjacent to
volleyball courts, a kayak rental, a restaurant with live music, and one
of the busiest beaches in Chicago.
Photo: Nesting plover performing “broken-wing” display in response
to nest disturbance. Credit: Tamima Itani
birding community, led by the Chicago Ornithological Society, Chicago Audubon
Society, and the Illinois Ornithological Society, quickly mobilized to recruit
volunteers and establish shifts of birder volunteers who monitor the nesting piping
plover pair and share their excitement and information with other Montrose
beachgoers. Almost two hundred
volunteers have been taking turns at two-hour shifts and will be out watching
the birds from 6 am to midnight during the busy holiday week. The plover pair, named Rose and Monty by the Montrose birding
community, have been the stars of tremendous media interest, appearing
regularly in photos and videos on TV news and of course on Facebook and other
social media (see below photo). Such is the general
excitement that Chicagoans around town are now regularly spotted wearing
“Chicago is for P/lovers” t-shirts.
Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Illinois Department of Natural
Resources (IDNR) have been working with the Piping Plover Volunteer Monitors
and the Chicago Park District to monitor and assess threats to the nesting pair
and plan responses. Working with the Chicago Park District, the
USFWS and IDNR have roped off the nesting area and have placed a cage around
the nest to protect the eggs from predators and other dangers. The nesting plovers can freely move in and out
of the protective cage, and they take turns sitting on the nest while the other
parent feeds on the beach.
“I feel so fortunate that we had this wonderful birding community that could mobilize so quickly,” USFWS Field Supervisor Louise Clemency says. “These birds would not have had a chance without the COS quickly enlisting such large numbers of volunteers to watch over the plovers.”
Photo: FWS biologist installs nest cage while parent plover
displays nearby. The plover returned to
incubation immediately after nest cage was installed. Credit:
Brad Semel IDNR
This is the
plover pair’s 2nd nest this year. The first nest of four eggs was located in an
area that became flooded and the eggs were rescued into the care of the Lincoln
Park Zoo, then transferred into the Great Lakes Piping Plover Salvage Captive
Rearing and Release program. Their current nest is
located within an area already roped off to protect a colony of nesting bank
swallows. A new larger area was roped
off to protect the nesting plovers from disturbance.
extinct from the Great Lakes region in the early 1980s, the pair represents one
of approximately 70 breeding pairs of Piping Plovers in the entire Great Lakes
region. This is a major milestone in their recovery, increasing from a low of
just 13 pairs!
The East Haven community in Connecticut rallied behind Momauguin Elementary School as they dedicated a schoolyard habitat, in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Audubon Connecticut. From the Department of Public Works who brought in equipment to flatten and grade the site, to the local hardware store who donated supplies, to a local garden supplier/horticulturist who was a consultant on plant selection, to the Town Concilman and East Haven Chamber of Commerce who led the ribbon-cutting ceremony, and a high school student who built planters with the elementary kids as part of his capstone graduation project (which he won an award as the best capstone project of his school!)…many partners helped bring to life the school’s habitat design with the intention to enrich their campus with a habitat for wildlife and a more powerful learning environment for students.
Photos: Arnold Gold / Hearst Connecticut Media, in the New Haven Register.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Partners with City of Providence for Urban Bird Treaty City Designation
On May 6, 2019, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Northeast Regional Director Wendi Weber joined U.S. Senator Jack Reed, Mayor Jorge O. Elorza, and other elected officials and many partners at the Roger Williams Park Bandstand to designate the City of Providence as an Urban Bird Treaty City. Providence is now among 30 cities recognized nationwide with this designation.
“Migratory birds add to the biodiversity of our ecosystem and have a unique importance in our City due to their economic, ecological and cultural value,” said Mayor Jorge Elorza. “By reaffirming our commitment to conserving the habitats of these ecologically essential birds, we are recognizing our shared responsibility to care for them and the lands they fly over during their incredible journeys.”
“This federal designation as an Urban Bird Treaty city recognizes Providence’s outstanding commitment to protecting and conserving bird populations and their ecosystems. The grant will help with both habitat restoration efforts and environmental education and outreach,” said Senator Reed, a senior member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior & Environment, which oversees federal funding for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Birds are a keystone species and they are beneficial in so many ways, like keeping insect populations down. Our feathered friends have a great champion in Mayor Elorza and the Providence Parks Department, so they are surely singing their praises today. And I want to add my congratulations and appreciation to all the partners who helped Providence achieve this distinction. Ultimately, enhancing the habitat for birds makes Providence a healthier, more livable city for people too.”
The treaty between the City of Providence and the USFWS acknowledges the importance of these local efforts in achieving migratory bird conservation and improving the health and well-being of people in urban areas.
“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proud to designate Providence as an Urban Bird Treaty city and support the many dedicated partner organizations working here to restore habitat in local parks, deepen people’s connection with nature, and conserve our migratory birds through community education, science, and stewardship,” Weber said.
Photo: Northeast Regional Director Wendi Weber signs Urban Bird Treaty with City of Providence as Mayor Jorge Elorza and students from the Paul Cuffee School’s Wild Kids Club celebrate. / Bridget Macdonald, USFWS
Photo: U.S. Senator Jack Reed speaks at Urban Bird Treaty signing event on May 6, 2019, at Roger Williams Park in Providence, RI. / Roxanne Bogart, USFWS
For more information, visit the CIty of Providence and USFWS news releases:
We completed the first phase of a comprehensive evaluation of the Urban Wildlife Conservation Program. This involved 16 priority urban refuges sharing how they are meeting the program’s Standards of Excellence. The evaluation looked at what is going well and, just as importantly, what challenges and hurdles we need to overcome to meet the goal of partnering with urban communities in conservation. Here are some findings:
Most stations are beginning to make progress toward engaging communities, but more effort is needed to ensure community input informs programming.
Stations made moderate to high progress in building and sustaining partnerships. Stations and partners rate their relationships highly and recognize the mutual benefits of working together.
Stations identified several needs to make further progress: infrastructure such as contact stations, signage, restrooms and parking; training, including in customer service and audience research; and improved external communication such as better websites and multilingual communications.
Bird Species that Call During Migration More Susceptible to Building Collisions
New study finds that bird species that call during migration flights seem to be more susceptible to collisions with buildings, drawing more individuals in towards the lights. So these species end up with a potentially similar ‘drawn in’ effect –like bats with turbines–emphasizing the importance of Lights Out programs.
New & improved Daycation mobile app available for iPhone and Android
The Intertwine Alliance and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service are proud to announce the release of Northwest Family Daycation – just in time for your spring break fun!
Daycation is a completely free mobile app for families with young children that takes all the planning and guesswork out of exploring nature in the Portland region. Our team of parents and nature enthusiasts have curated fun adventures all over town that connect natural areas to other community amenities, all while considering the needs of young explorers and their caregivers.
This version 2 release of Daycation features major design and functionality improvements based on user feedback. A big thank you to everyone who has been involved with the app’s development over the past few years by creating Daycations or downloading the product. We hope you’ll check out v2 on Apple and Android phones – and let us know what you think!
Our team will release a new Daycation each week. Intertwine partners and friends, we invite you to keep submitting adventures featuring your favorite places.
Questions or thoughts? Please email the Daycation team at
Announcement: Training Webinar for Urban Eval Phase 1
WHEN: A training webinar for Urban Evaluation Phase One of the Priority 14 Urban Wildlife Refuges will be held on February 7, 2017.
WHAT: Planning and Partners Assessment forms, in a fillable format, will be distributed during the webinar.
OTHER INFO and IMPORTANT DATES: The deadline for the 14 Priority Refuges to complete assessments has moved to August 15, 2017.
A formal invitation with login instructions will be forwarded soon. Please inform others, or share this calendar invitation, to any other interested parties. Other interested refuges may join the webinar for information, but it is not required.