Trip underscores importance of connecting urban communities to the outdoors
Date: Tuesday, September 28, 2021
WASHINGTON — Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland visited the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (Service) San Diego National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) today to discuss the important conservation work of urban wildlife refuges, highlight the America the Beautiful initiative, and honor Hispanic Heritage Month. The visit comes as the nation prepares to celebrate Urban National Wildlife Refuge Day tomorrow.
“Urban wildlife refuges provide spaces where communities can connect with nature and wildlife, and the bountiful gifts that they offer. As we work to address inequitable access to the outdoors for communities of color and underserved communities, places like the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge serve as a model of what it looks like to create inclusive spaces that all people, regardless of their background, can access,” said Secretary Haaland.
Conservation stewardship and increasing equitable access to public lands is an essential component of the Biden-Harris administration’s America the Beautiful initiative, a decade-long, locally-led and voluntary campaign to conserve, connect, and restore 30 percent of our lands and waters by 2030.
The San Diego NWR is one of 568 refuges in America’s National Wildlife Refuge System, the world’s largest and most diverse network of lands and waters set aside for fish and wildlife. During the Secretary’s visit, she met with young students participating in an environmental education program supported by the Service’s SoCal Urban Refuge program which connects local youth to outdoor learning, service, and stewardship of natural habitats. Since its inception, the program has reached over 113,000 participants through interpretive events, volunteer stewardship activities, and other outreach efforts to the community with the goal of inspiring the next generation of conservation stewards.
In 2014, urban wildlife refuge managers throughout the country responded to a challenge, issued by the Service, to connect urban communities with nature and the outdoors. The San Diego NWR Complex responded to the challenge and became the first recipient of a competitively awarded $1 million in annual funding, eventually founding the SoCal Urban Wildlife Refuge program. The program supports a suite of partners who use multiple strategies to engage local communities that reflect the nation’s diverse racial and ethnic population.