Having worked for the protection of urban and suburban bird habitat since Urban Bird Foundation’s inception as Burrowing Owl Conservation Network, we are thrilled that on September 25, 2013, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a multi-faceted Urban Wildlife Refuge Initiative to make its programs reflect the diverse perspectives, values and cultures of America.
The initiative strives to make the Service’s programs far more relevant to millions of Americans — 80 percent of whom live in big and small cities — giving them myriad ways to participate in wildlife conservation and recreation.
Urban Bird Foundation firmly understands that large contiguous habitats and wildlife corridors are critical to maintaining and preserving biodiversity long into the future. However, we also believe that working for the protection of open space and habitat within our communities — the places where we live, raise our children, work and relax — are environmentally important areas essential to birds, wildlife and people. “For conservation to last,” says Scott Artis, Executive Director of urban Bird Foundation, “we need to restore our connection and accessibility to birds and open space in urban communities.”
“The Urban Wildlife Refuge Initiative will provide economic benefits to hundreds of communities as new generations of city dwellers learn wildlife-dependent recreation, such as birding, fishing, hunting, hiking, canoeing and so much more,” said Service Director Dan Ashe. “Too many Americans have grown up without a real connection to wildlife. This initiative gives us the chance to change that.” The Urban Wildlife Refuge Initiative grows out of the Service’s Conserving the Future process, which set a strategic path for the National Wildlife Refuge System for the next decade and beyond. To stay engaged and informed with the Urban Wildlife Refuge Initiative visit http://americaswildlife.org/ and to learn more about Urban Bird Foundation’s work explore our website and sign up for our monthly email newsletter.
The Urban Wildlife initiative is built on four major elements:
- “Standards of Excellence for Urban National Wildlife Refuges” to help national wildlife refuges engage urban Americans in new and more effective ways. The standards are aimed at national wildlife refuges within 25 miles of urban areas with 250,000 people or more, but also can benefit refuges serving more rural communities.
- Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnerships in geographically-dispersed communities to expand the Service’s conservation programs. Eight partnerships were established in 2013 and more will be established by 2015.
- A Director’s Order that authorizes and encourages all Service programs to conduct cooperative fish and wildlife conservation, education and outreach in urban communities. These areas are partnership-based lands, not managed by the Service, where people can enjoy outdoor experiences that foster connections with fish and wildlife resources and promote active engagement of people in the natural world.
- A first-ever Urban Academy for staff and partners at the National Conservation Training Center in West Virginia on September 23-25, 2013. The purpose is to train staff on cultural diversity, how to overcome barriers to outdoor recreation, and create partnerships that engage new audiences in order to foster a new conservation constituency.
“We believe these unique Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnerships can inspire the imagination and create a connected conservation constituency of people who are aware, understand and support fish and wildlife conservation,” said Director Ashe.