Houston Community Partnership and Engagement Program (formerly Houston Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership)
We are working with many partners in Houston to bring the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's conservation message to the fourth largest metropolitan area in the U.S. Working with city staff, we are incorporating wildlife conservation and education into the Houston Parks and Recreation Department's after school and summer programs that reach thousands of young people. We are helping our partners build capacity and expand their own conservation efforts through technical support, training and community service projects. And we are creating pollinator gardens along bayous, city parks and busy intersections. The five National Wildlife Refuges within 60 miles of downtown Houston offer a diversity of experiences for urban residents to get outside and enjoy nature.
This initiative, which has also recognized seven other projects across the United States, seeks to show city residents the wildlife living right on their block while improving urban wildlife spaces. The National Wildlife Refuge System, which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) oversees, includes hundreds of refuges that are within short traveling distance of small cities; many are within 25 miles of major hubs such as Philadelphia and San Francisco. But many people don’t know how close these refuges are. “We’ve got 80 percent of Americans that are living in urban areas, and diversity is changing,” says Marcia Pradines, chief of the service’s visitor services and communications division. “We need to figure out a better way to increase our relevancy to [these] communities.”
The USFWS hopes that if city dwellers can be enticed into local refuges, they will then want to explore farther afield.. “You might start with, in a very urban neighborhood, a pollinator garden. Then you make the connection to, let’s say, a park down the road a little further. And then you likewise make another connection to a larger wild area outside the city,” Pradines says.