Urban Wildlife Refuge Initiative to Reach Millions with Conservation Connections
Recognizing that 80 percent of Americans live in big and small cities, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has forged a multi-faceted Urban Wildlife Refuge Initiative to make its programs reflect the diverse perspectives, values and cultures of America today. Ultimately, the Initiative will make the Service’s programs far more relevant to millions of Americans, giving them myriad ways to participate in wildlife conservation and recreation.
- Hundreds of communities will benefit economically as a new generation of city dwellers learns such wildlife-dependent recreation as birding, fishing, hunting, hiking, kayaking and canoeing, and more.
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 or so. The Initiative is built on four major elements:
- Standards of Excellence to measure how well national wildlife refuges reach 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 they are equally instructive for wildlife refuges serving more rural communities. The public can comment on the Standards through September 20: http://americaswildlife.org/wp-content/uploads/group-documents/69/1377531466-DraftUrbanStandardsofExcellence.pdf
- Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnerships to work in geographically-dispersed communities not fully reached by Service programs;
- Director’s Order that authorizes and encourages all Service programs to conduct cooperative fish and wildlife conservation, education and outreach in urban communities; and
- Urban Academy to train Service employees, members of nonprofit Friends organizations, and partners to better serve urban residents. The Urban Academy will be held September 23-25 at the National Conservation Training Center in West Virginia.
The first-time Urban Academy will train participants not only how to understand cultural diversity, but also how to overcome barriers, create partnerships, and understand and engage new audiences.
The first eight Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnerships, designed to help set the stage for expanding the nation’s conservation constituency, were established this year; three more will be established by 2015. The Director’s Order formally establishes the Urban Wildlife Refuge Designation and Partnership program, creating a new category of partnership-based lands that are neither owned by the Service nor governed by the Department of the Interior. Instead, they are in urban areas where people can enjoy outdoor experiences that foster connections with fish and wildlife resources and promote active engagement of people in the natural world.
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