Tag Archives: springfield

Protecting Springfield’s Wild Side, One Partner at a Time!


When I first began working as a park ranger at the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, I would wonder how we could possibly hope to accomplish our mission. The 7.2 million acre Connecticut River watershed is a giant piece of land and we are responsible for protecting and enhancing a huge diversity of native plants, fish and wildlife species, as well as the ecosystems they depend upon. To make matters more challenging, we directly manage only a small part of the territory we are responsible for protecting. The rest of the land is owned and managed by others.

But I was soon to learn the truth about environmental conservation… No one individual or organization can do it alone. It takes everyone working together to make a difference! This partnership approach is what the Conte refuge was built on.

Why are partnerships so effective in environmental conservation?

What I have discovered is that each person’s individual talents and experiences make them invaluable to the mission. No one individual is good at everything, but a large group of diverse individuals can come pretty close!

Earlier this year, the Conte refuge assisted in the creation of an Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership in Springfield, Massachusetts. Through this partnership, the Service is working alongside other public agencies, Springfield community organizations, area schools, and private organizations to restore the city’s natural areas. And together, we are already making an impact.


A view of the Abbey Brook restoration site. Credit: Susan Wojtowicz

Our partnership’s first project is to restore Abbey Brook, a small stream that flows through Springfield and empties into the Chicopee River, eventually flowing into the Connecticut River. This stream and the woods surrounding it has a lot of potential for providing much needed habitat for nearby wildlife; however, it has been damaged over time by pollution, harmful invasive plants, and waters that rise quickly after heavy rain storms.


Credit: Susan Wojtowicz

Many neighborhoods and schools surround the Abbey Brook site, and we are encouraging community members to become partners as well. Many of them, young and old, already use the site as a place to enjoy nature.


Credit: Susan Wojtowicz

With the community’s guidance, we hope to encourage even more community members to use the site by creating trails that will provide easier access, while protecting sensitive areas.

And just think of all of the potential educational opportunities this partnership can provide! Through classroom programming, independent studies, internship opportunities, and peer mentoring programs with area colleges and universities, students will be able to learn directly from scientists, professors, college students, environmental educators, and field professionals with a diversity of skills and backgrounds. Through these programs, we hope to encourage urban youth to become stewards of their environment and introduce them to careers in natural resource conservation.


Students from Holyoke Community College examine the Abbey Brook site to apply classroom knowledge in a real world setting. Credit: Susan Wojtowicz

America is a very big place. (And I thought the Conte Refuge was huge!) Luckily, Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnerships have been established in various cities throughout the United States and more are being established each year. Together we are making a much larger impact than the Service could possibly make on its own.

Partnership Map

Locations of current Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnerships, Credit: USFWS

Our partnership is not yet good at everything. We are still looking for additional partners to fill in the gaps. But I do know that we are much more effective as a group than we could possibly be as individual organizations.

Our work in Springfield is just beginning… But it’s a very exciting beginning!

To see more of the important work we are doing within the Connecticut River Watershed, visit the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge website.

To learn more about urban partnerships that have been established throughout the country, visit the Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnerships website.

Mascot Madness!

March Madness has begun at last, which means people will be getting excited and using the word “bracket” outside of home improvement stores. All the teams have creative mascots, most often named after a fierce animal or other creature from the team’s locale — except my Minutemen, of course. They are named after something else entirely.

But some of these mascots are in trouble, and not just on the court. Out in the world, the issues these animals face are real, whether from climate change, pollution or habitat loss. Check out this terrific report from National Wildlife Federation on the issue.

The Canada lynx  relies on deep snow cover to hunt, but if that snow retreats north, so too will it the lynx. We’d hate if the only places to find this wildcat became on the logos for teams like New Hampshire, Villanova and Kentucky.


Although, I have more faith in the population of falcon’s recovery than Air Force’s. Photo via USFWS

The peregrine falcon made a comeback in recent years because of conservation efforts, and was removed from the endangered species list by the Service. But the Air Force Academy’s mascot could face trouble down the road as changing precipitation patterns can cause chicks to drown in their nests due to extreme rain events.


Without some serious changes to how we treat our world, black ducks like this guy could disappear after overhunting and habitat lost take their toll. Photo via USFWS


While not endangered, black bears could be a rarity in the lower 48 as global temperatures rise. Photo via USFWS

While Oregon’s Fighting Ducks may hold their own on the court, black ducks face problems from development as they migrate along the Atlantic Flyway. Sea-level rise is also a primary threat in the Chesapeake Bay area where many black ducks winter. The black duck population declined significantly since the 1950’s, though their populations have been stable for nearly 25 years since hunting bag limits were reduced.

While there is a healthy population of black bears here in the Northeast, climate change-related impacts like drought and other extreme weather events put bears and other species in jeopardy.

With so much important habitat located near the coast in the northeast corridor, climate change and sea-level rise pose a serious threat to wildlife populations and their habitats. So while you’re rooting for your home team to go all the way in climbing the bracket these next few weeks, take a moment to root for wildlife to too, because with our help, these species may be able to adapt to a changing climate and world.