|Reintroducing lake whitefish into the Detroit River|
(2013) - Photo credit: USGS
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