Friday, August 14, 2015

Farewell and Thanks from John Hartig

Reintroducing lake whitefish into the Detroit River
(2013) - Photo credit: USGS
It has truly been an honor to moderate this America’s Wild Read discussion on Bringing Conservation to Cities.  I want to thank Anne Post and the other staff at the National Conservation Training Center for making this possible.  I would also like to thank everyone who participated for enriching the discussions and for helping raise awareness of the importance of making nature part of everyday urban life. 

There is no scientific doubt that the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge would truly be unique in its own right, because of its plethora and diversity of fish and wildlife, if it were not situated in the industrial heartland and a nearly seven-million person urban area.  But it is, and just like a rose that grows surrounded by concrete and steel is more remarkable than one that grows in a horticulturist’s garden, this refuge is more remarkable because it is being built in the industrial heartland and within a major urban area.  And it is helping bring conservation to this major urban area in a fashion that will help develop the next generation of conservationists that will value and appreciate nature in both cities and beyond. 

It is critically important that a high priority be placed on reconnecting urban residents with nature as part of a long-term strategy to inspire individual respect, love, and stewardship of the land/ecosystem to be able to develop a societal land/ecosystem ethic for sustainability.  All stakeholder groups, including governmental agencies, educational institutions, businesses, environmental organizations, conservation clubs, faith-based organizations, social advocacy groups, and health institutions, must join forces to help reconnect people to the land and water in urban areas through compelling outdoor recreational and educational experiences that help foster an appreciation of and love for the outdoors.  That, in turn, will help develop a strong sense of place that inspires positive actions, a sense of ownership, and stewardship for the community’s natural resources. 
Unique birding spot on the Detroit RiverWalk
            in Downtown Detroit - Photo credit: USFWS

Clearly, urban refuges and other urban conservation places have the unique proximal natural resources to help children experience nature as the supporting fabric of their everyday lives.  Whether it’s hiking, fishing, hunting, birding, learning through environmental education, photography, natural resource interpretation, or just plain exploring in the woods, these urban conservation areas have what educators, city planners, developers, business leaders, and parents want – unique natural resources that can enhance quality of life, contribute to ecosystem health and healthful living, and nourish our sense of wonder, imagination, and curiosity.  

 Kids Fishing Fest on the Detroit River
Photo credit: Detroit Riverfront Conservancy

We need unique urban conservation places, whether they be urban refuges, urban conservation areas, urban state parks, metroparks, city parks, conservancy lands, or other natural areas, or some combination of these urban conservation places, that can make nature experiences part of everyday urban life.  As noted in the July 12th WildRead blog posting, it was indeed quite prophetic that the great American author and naturalist HenryDavid Thoreau, while watching civilization expand into the countryside during his lifetime (1817-1862), recommended that every town should have a forest of 500-1,000 acres for conservation instruction and outdoor recreation. 

This America’s Wild Read discussion should be viewed as only a beginning.  It will be continued through the Urban Wildlife Conservation Program Hub. Again, thank you and please stay involved in our important work to provide a reason and opportunities for urban residents to find, appreciate, and care for nature in their cities and beyond.