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Urban National Wildlife Refuge Day: Celebrating Nature Near Cities

Urban National Wildlife Refuge Day: Celebrating Nature Near Cities

Visitors enjoy a variety of outdoor activities close to home at urban national wildlife refuges across the country. Photo: Visitors fishing at Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge near Denver, CO.

September 29 is Urban National Wildlife Refuge Day — the date designated by the Secretary of the Interior to recognize the special importance of urban national wildlife refuges in enriching the lives of Americans and their communities.  This weekend, more than 30 urban national wildlife refuges will celebrate this day by encouraging people of all ages to get outside to hunt, fish and learn about nature.

For the 80 percent of Americans who live in or near cities, urban national wildlife refuges can provide vital access to nature and outdoor recreation, boosting residents’ health and well-being. Urban refuges strive to be good neighbors by supporting residents’ needs and communities’ visions to revitalize their streets, green spaces and schools.

Of the 567 wildlife refuges in the National Wildlife Refuge System, 101 are urban refuges. Urban National Wildlife Refuges are units of the National Wildlife Refuge System that have a population center of at least 250,000 people within 25 miles of their boundaries. The Service established the Urban Wildlife Conservation Program to inspire Americans to connect with nature and the outdoors to become stewards of the environment and empower local organizations, cities, and towns across the country to support innovative, community-based conservation.

At urban refuges like those near Albuquerque, Denver, Detroit, Minneapolis, San Diego and inside the city limits of Philadelphia, many residents discover the thrill of learning a new outdoor skill such as archery or fishing or joining a fun run for the first time.  Urban refuges also offer a unique opportunity to disconnect and enjoy nature.

“Urban wildlife refuges set a wonderful example of how we are using public lands to connect people with nature and help improve the quality of life for local communities,” said Aurelia Skipwith, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks for the U.S. Department of the Interior, who will participate in the Masonville Cove Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership’s Decade of Dedication event in Baltimore, Sept 29, 2019. “Urban refuges are working hand in

hand with area residents to enhance the quality of life in urban areas by providing access to the outdoors.”

Here are just a few snapshots of activities occurring on urban refuges:

At Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge in Portland, Ore., and nearby refuges, the Service partners with the local nonprofit “I’m Hooked, Inc.” to help introduce youth to fishing. 

At John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum in Philadelphia, community members who have been working alongside refuge staff to turn abandoned lots into pollinator gardens and bring conservation science into school classrooms will come out for a fall festival with free archery and kayak lessons and nature walks. The Philly Fall Nature Fest runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 28, 2019.

At Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge near Albuquerque, “Build Your Refuge Day” on Sept. 28, 2019, will celebrate community members’ shared success in creating a healthier, more walkable community and creating this new refuge from the ground up. (Video: “Not Your Typical Refuge”)

For more events go to: Urban National Wildlife Refuge Day.

Some 30 urban wildlife refuge partnerships provide nature-based recreation to people who live in or near cities. Urban wildlife refuge partnerships consist of partners who work with a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office located in communities where the Service can establish a presence in demographically and geographically varied cities in the U.S.  Urban refuge partnerships are active in several cities including Baltimore, Chicago, Providence and Houston.

National wildlife refuges are managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Learn more about the Urban Wildlife Conservation Program.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information, visit, or connect with us through any of these social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.

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