Secretary of Interior Announces Additional $1 Million to Fund Urban Engagement Efforts at Southern California Wildlife Refuges

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Global_logo_color copySecretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced last week that the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge Complex will receive an additional $1 million in funding to reach new audiences and engage Southern California urban communities and youth in conservation and outdoor recreation. The outreach includes programs from a number of local conservation organizations, including a teacher education program being run by San Diego Zoo Global. The project for the refuge is the first among the nation’s urban national wildlife refuges to receive this new award through a nationwide competition.

“As the second-largest metropolitan area in the United States with 17 million people, Southern California can be a laboratory for the rest of the country to show how to help people who live in a world made of bricks and concrete connect with a world of grass and rivers, fish and wildlife,” said Jewell. “Helping kids feel welcome on public lands at a young age can help create the next generation of conservationists or spark a passion to be good stewards of nature that will last a lifetime.”

Ten exceptional programs have been incorporated into the SoCal Project that will complement and expand current outreach and education programs on the refuges, including:

* Working with the Los Angeles Conservation Corps to develop job skills with inner city, low-income young adults to restore wildlife habitats along the Los Angeles River and to lead outdoor education activities;
* Expanding the partnership with Earth Discovery Institute to build a cadre of young technology-savvy environmental stewards and to expand service opportunities for volunteers and communities to connect with their wild lands;
* Growing the next generation of environmental scientists and developing skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics with the Living Coast Discovery Center; and
* Training teachers and students on the use of cutting-edge science to solve conservation problems with the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research.

“Native species refuges located in the middle of urban areas are faced with the ongoing challenge of balancing human and wildlife needs, which highlights the importance of awareness building through conservation education,” said Douglas Myers, CEO and president of San Diego Zoo Global. “San Diego Zoo Global is proud to be part of this leadership effort to put youth in touch with our environmental heritage.”

The refuge’s winning proposal, the SoCal Urban Wildlife Refuge Project, incorporates outdoor learning, service and stewardship of natural habitats and conservation-based projects for youth and young adults from diverse communities. It encompasses activities not only at the San Diego Refuges but also to the north at the Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge Complex and in Los Angeles under the auspices of the Los Angeles Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership and Friends of the Los Angeles River. The competition was launched in March 2014 to encourage innovative proposals from refuges across the country to engage new and diverse audiences.