Thursday, July 2, 2015

Why the National Wildlife Refuge System Needs Successful Urban Refuges by John Hartig

John Hartig, author and Detroit River Intnerational Wildlife
Refuge
Putting Detroit and Windsor, the automobile capitals of the United States and Canada, respectively, in the same sentence as conservation may seem like a paradox, but it really isn’t and you may be pleasantly surprised to learn why. In the 1960s, the Detroit River was one of the most polluted rivers in North America because of its history of industrial and urban development.  Today, the cleanup and recovery of the Detroit River represent one of the most remarkable ecological recovery stories in North America with the return of balk eagles, peregrine falcons, osprey, lake sturgeon, lake whitefish, walleye, mayflies, wild celery, and more. Out of this recovery has come the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge – the only international one in North America. It represents a new model for conservation – one that focuses on conserving, protecting, and restoring habitats for 30 species of waterfowl, 113 kinds of fish, and over 300 species of birds, and on making nature part of everyday urban life. Today, this refuge is one of the 14 priority urban refuges charged with helping provide a reason and opportunities for urban residents to find, appreciate, and care for nature in their cities and beyond.



Peregrine Falcon overlooking the Detroit skyline.
Photo credit: DTE Energy

What percentage of people in the United States live in urban areas? The answer is 80%.  Incidentally, the same percentage of people in Canada lives in urban areas. Throughout the world 54% of all people now live in urban areas and this is projected to increase to 66% by 2050. Most urban residents are disconnected from the natural world. As a global community, we cannot afford to allow this disconnection to continue and that is why the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has created an Urban Wildlife Conservation Program to help create a connected conservation constituency. This new program is made up of the 14 priority urban refuges, 14 urban wildlife refuge partnerships, and many other urban bird treaty cities and other suburban refuges.


However, this new program is not without constructive criticism and tough questions from within the National Wildlife Refuge System and key partners like those representing biodiversity. Often, the argument is that it will just take too many resources to bring conservation to cities and that this will diminish the amount of resources for conservation of biodiversity and wilderness. One good answer is that it should not be either/or, but we can and should do both. The vast majority of resources will still be deployed in conserving fish, wildlife, and biodiversity in wilderness and rural areas, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is investing a relatively small amount of resources in bringing conservation to selected cities in a strategic and value-added way. 
I believe that we need to do both and that bringing conservation to cities in compelling urban places such as San Diego, Detroit, Albuquerque, Chicago, Alamo, San Francisco, and others, and keeping urbanites connected with nature, can indeed help build support for conservation of fish, wildlife, and biodiversity in cities and beyond.  Investing in urban conservation should also help develop a more conservationally-literate society and one that values, appreciates, and cares for conservation in cities and beyond.  Finally, this is fully consistent with the mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.  This mission statement clearly includes humans and future generations.
 
What can and should be done to win over more people in the conservation field to recognize the broader value and benefit of bringing conservation to cities and to support experimenting with making nature part of everyday urban life in selected cities?

[Editor's note: Comment below and "like" below]

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Welcome to our "Bringing Conservation to Cities" book discussion with John Hartig

Welcome to our Bringing Conservation to Cities book discussion.  Author and FWS refuge manager John Hartig will moderate this discussion with one essay a week and you the reader can participate in a discussion here by commenting and John and other readers will respond.  Note the question(s) to prime the discussion flow.  The month long uban conservation conversation is framed around the following topics:

  • Week One: Why the National Wildlife Refuge System Needs Successful Urban Refuges
  • Week Two: Becoming Part of the Community Fabric
  • Week Three: Compelling Urban Citizen Science
  • Week Four: Lessons Learned from Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge
We are pretty jazzed about this WildRead month so welcome and keep your eye on tomorrow's first essay by John!


  

 


Monday, June 15, 2015

Coming in July: Bringing Conservation to Cities: Lessons from Building the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge by John H. Hartig

John Hartig
Discussions begin July 1 with John Hartig, Fish and Wildlife Service refuge manager and author of Bringing Conservation to Cities: Lessons from Building the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge.  

Bringing Conservation to Cities is the story of how innovative partnerships are making nature part of everyday urban life in the automobile capitals of the U.S. and Canada in an effort to inspire and develop the next generation of conservationists in urban areas because that is where 80% of U.S. and Canadian citizens live. 

Dr. John Hartig is trained as a limnologist with 30 years of experience in Great Lakes science and natural resource management.  He currently serves as Refuge Manager for the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge and serves on the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy Board of Directors.  From 1999 to 2004 he served as River Navigator for the Greater Detroit American Heritage River Initiative established by Presidential Executive Order.  Prior to becoming River Navigator, he spent 12 years working for the International Joint Commission on the Canada-U.S. Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.  John has been an Adjunct Professor at Wayne State University where he taught Environmental Management and Sustainable Development, and has served as President of the International Association forGreat Lakes Research.  He has authored or co-authored over 100 publications on the environment, including four books: Bringing Conservation to Cities: Lessons from Building the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge (2014; Ecovision World Monograph Series, Aquatic Ecosystem Health and Management Society, Ontario); Burning Rivers: Revival of Four Urban Industrial Rivers that Caught on Fire (2010; Ecovision World Monograph Series, Aquatic Ecosystem Health and Management Society, Ontario); Honoring Our Detroit River, Caring for Our Home (2003; Cranbrook Institute of Science, Michigan); and Under RAPs: Toward Grassroots Ecological Democracy in the Great Lakes Basin (1992; University of Michigan Press, Michigan).  His book titled Burning Rivers was a 2011 Green Book Festival winner in the “scientific” category and a 2011 Next Generation Indie Book Awards finalist in the “science/nature/environment” category.  John has received a number of awards for his work, including the 2013 Conservation Advocate of the Year Award from the Michigan League of Conservation Voters, the 2012 Outstanding Environmental Professional of the Year Award from the Michigan Association of Environmental Professionals, a 2010 Green Leaders Award from the Detroit Free Press, a 2005 White House Conference on Cooperative Conservation Award for Outstanding Leadership and Collaboration in the Great Lakes, the 2003 Anderson-Everett Award from the International Association for Great Lakes Research, and the 1993 Sustainable Development Award for Civic Leadership from Global Tomorrow Coalition.

Be here July 1!   [Editor's Note:  John Hartig hosted a WildRead discussion back in 2012 with his book Burning Rivers: Revival of Four Urban Industrial Rivers That Caught on Fire]

How to participate?