Whether you are a nature enthusiast, book lover, young conservationist, student, teacher, or Refuge friend, you are invited to participate in America's WildRead community discussion. This blog is provided to you by the Friends of the National Conservation Training Center (NCTC) in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Conservation Library. All are welcome!
Sunday, March 11, 2012
The Next Generation of Conservationists by Moderator John Hartig
Where will the next generation of conservationists come from?Undoubtedly, most will come from urban areas because that is where most people will be living.In addition, U.S. children are spending less and less time outdoors and nature-based recreation is, in general, declining.
We clearly have a challenge.We need to bring conservation to urban areas.
That is what is so exciting to me about working in the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge that has nearly seven million people living within a 45-minute drive.First, the very place the Rouge River caught on fire in 1969 is now located within the acquisition boundary of the Refuge.What a story that the lower Rouge River has gone from burning river to being part of North America’s only international wildlife refuge.Secondly, the Detroit River, like the burning rivers, has a reputation of being a polluted river in the “Rust Belt.”However, much like the burning rivers, the Detroit River has experienced substantial environmental improvement that has laid the foundation for one of the most remarkable ecological recovery stories in North America.The Detroit River has seen the return of bald eagles, peregrine falcons, osprey, lake sturgeon, lake whitefish, walleye, and burrowing mayflies right in the automobile capitals of the U.S. and Canada, and in this almost seven million person major metropolitan area.However, as we all know much remains to be done to fully restore the integrity of the river. But what a revival story and what an opportunity to reach and teach the next generation of conservationists!
Urban areas are definitely unique places and ones that most biologists and conservationists have historically shied away from.However, that is where most of the people are and where we can have a significant impact in developing the next generation of conservationists.Urban areas also provide unique opportunities for partnerships and to leverage resources for conservation.Indeed, that is precisely what is happening at the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge that has worked with over 200 organizations and leveraged over $33 million for conservation projects in its first ten years.As a result of its work in public-private partnerships for conservation, the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge was singled out at the 2005 White House Conference on Cooperative Conservation as a model and national leader in building and sustaining partnerships with corporations, nonprofit organizations, conservation groups, communities, and foundations.
We need urban refuges and urban conservation initiatives to bring nature into places where people live and to make nature experiences part of everyday life.That is why it is so exciting to see how the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has established, through its new vision for the National Wildlife Refuge System called “Conserving the Future,” an Urban Refuge Initiative that defines excellence in existing urban refuges, establishes a framework for creating new urban refuge partnerships, and implements a refuge presence in 10 demographically and geographically varied cities across America by 2015.I encourage you to learn about this new Urban Refuge Initiative and help make it a success.
Conservation in urban areas is not a question about the amount and uniqueness of natural resources, it is a question about making nature experiences part of everyday urban life to help develop a conservation ethic.Really, it is a question of human heart.
What are the most important things we need to do bring conservation to urban areas?