Tag Archives: urban conservation

Bienvenidos a McKinney NWR

Ivette first joined the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a Yale graduate and a summer intern through our Hispanic Access Foundation partnership. She’s now joined the team full time at Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge, and is making great strides in connecting with the local Hispanic community in New Haven, CT.

The transition from my summer internship to working full-time at McKinney has been great. I am thankful for the supportive staff who constantly check-in with me and provide me with the necessary resources and guidance to succeed. As the New Haven Urban Wildlife Refuge Coordinator, my responsibilities include collaborating with partners such as Yale Peabody Museum and New Haven Parks, providing environmental education at local New Haven schools, establishing new connections with community organizations, and engaging underrepresented audiences. I love working primarily on the urban wildlife refuge partnership because every day I get to do something new. One day I’m helping cleanup an island, the next I’m attending a conference, and then I get to lead activities in Spanish at the Peabody. I am also very excited because McKinney has recently gone bilingual on Facebook. Check us out!

Earlier this fall, Ivette represented the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at ¡Fiesta Latina!, an annual event at the Yale Peabody Museum that celebrates Hispanic culture. The Museum has been an integral participant of the New Haven Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership, established to connect urban communities with the National Wildlife Refuge System and nature. The event, held on October 8th, featured family activities, crafts and live music, and was attended by more than 2,250 visitors!


Ivette manned an interactive and informative station featuring pelts and bilingual information about Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service mission.

The visitors loved learning about the animal pelts, tracks, and scat. It was a rare opportunity for many of them to feel the pelts of local CT wildlife. They also enjoyed learning the Spanish name of each animal (beaver-castor, fox-zorro, coyote-coyote, skunk-zorrillo, and raccoon-mapache). My favorite part was when a visitor refused to touch any of the pelts because she had a slight fear of the animals, but after chatting about the importance of protecting wildlife she felt comfortable enough to touch the pelts.


The majority of visitors at the event were unaware of the USFWS and the National Wildlife Refuge System, but once they heard about all the opportunities refuges have to offer they were very excited to learn about their local refuge. A lot of them brought home maps of the refuge and couldn’t believe they didn’t know about this hidden gem in their backyard. A lot of visitors mentioned that they were looking forward to bringing their families to view the salt marsh at Stewart B. McKinney.

¡Fiesta Latina! served as a great opportunity for Ivette and other Service employees to share our mission and invite Latino families to visit their local refuge. Since the event, Ivette and other members of McKinney NWR staff have participated in a number of community service events and received a number of inquiries about how the Service can tie in to events at local community and school organizations. Most recently, McKinney NWR hosted a Fall Foliage walk, and Ivetta assisted Zeta Phi Beta Sorority and Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity with a cleanup event at Norwalk Shea Island.

Check back soon for an update from Michael Bonilla, another Hispanic Access Foundation superstar whose work has expanded at at Providence Parks Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership.

volunteer planting day at Pond Lily dam

Four Years After Sandy: A River Flows Free in New Haven, CT

Ankle-deep in mud, Tsa Shelton patted down the soil around a marsh grass she had just planted.

“This community is getting held accountable for its environment,” said Shelton. “If you have an area like this where people can actually come out and get a nice fill of nature, I think it’s definitely worth it. I think it’s a great thing to have in urban areas.”

Shelton was among more than 100 community volunteers who came out to the site of the former Pond Lily dam this past spring to celebrate the dam’s removal and help return it to a natural area for locals to enjoy. The project is featured in a new video showcasing the community behind the work, including Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, volunteers and partners.

Watch the video!

After enduring years of repeated flooding to homes and businesses, this urban community is now optimistic that flooding won’t be the problem it once was.

Removal of the dam opened up 2.6 miles of the West River, improving passage for fish such as herring, eel and shad. And the dam site itself is being transformed into an urban nature park with the help of the New Haven Land Trust, CT Fund for the Environment/Save the Sound and volunteers like Shelton who planted native vegetation to stabilize the river banks and prevent erosion.

Pond Lily is one of many dam removal efforts up and down the Northeast to help improve water flow and fish passage while also reducing the risk of community flooding due to failure of old, obsolete dams. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is investing $167 million in federal funding for Hurricane Sandy recovery to restore and strengthen coastal and inland areas through dam removal, marsh and beach restoration, living shorelines and innovative science initiatives. 

Four years this month after Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast, it’s projects like Pond Lily dam removal that are helping restore and protect communities in the face of a changing climate. Learn more about the resiliency projects that are supported through Hurricane Sandy disaster relief funds and watch our Pond Lily video.

volunteer planting day at Pond Lily dam

Volunteers planting native vegetation along the river banks following removal of Pond Lily dam in New Haven, CT. Credit: USFWS

Flying into Philly: 2016 Federal Duck Stamp Contest

The John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge is gearing up for our favorite art contest. The 2016 Federal Duck Stamp Contest is being held in Philadelphia this year on September 9 and 10 at the Academy of Natural Sciences. The Federal Duck Stamp is one of the most successful conservation initiatives in U.S history. Since the program began in 1934, sales of Federal Duck Stamps have generated more than $800 million to acquire and preserve more than 5.7 million acres of bird and wildlife habitat.

Duck Stamp

Photo 1: This year’s Duck Stamp is currently being sold for $25. Put your stamp on conservation and purchase Duck Stamps here!

Throughout the summer, the refuge will be promoting the contest with some special programming, including bird themed summer camp weeks, film showings at various locations around the city, waterfowl related activities and tabling on the refuge every Wednesday in August from 9am-1pm, plus much more! Click here for a full list of what’s happening and the latest information about the contest.

Hooded Merganser Drawing summer camp

Summer camp participant working hard on a Hooded Merganser drawing

We’ve also partnered with Art Sphere, Inc to promote the contest and get young people excited about celebrating conservation through art. Art Sphere will be leading 10 art workshops at different rec centers throughout the city in July and August.  So far, John Heinz staff has visited one of these workshops at the Towey Rec Center in Philadelphia, bringing with them some taxidermy ducks, and teaching the students about duck anatomy, adaptations and the importance of wetland habitats.  After the presentation, students drew ducks using a variety of mediums and techniques, including individual drawings and a group collage. We saw some amazing work come out of their projects. The artwork ranged from very realistic to very colorful and abstract. Everyone did a great job and had a lot of fun!

Art Sphere urban mallard

One student’s project featuring a Mallard Duck in the city

Students also had the amazing opportunity to paint a permanent mural featuring ducks and duck habitat on the walls at the Towey Rec Center. How exciting that they will be leaving a lasting impression on the rec center!

Duck mural

Two students having a great time making their mark on conservation by painting this awesome mural at the Towey Rec Center

We are having a great time in Philadelphia this summer celebrating the Duck Stamp and connecting conservation through art, so follow our updates using the hashtag #DuckStampPHL. Be sure to come check us out on September 9 and 10 at the Academy of Natural Sciences. General admission to the museum will be free on those dates!

The 2016 Federal Duck Stamp Contest and affiliated programming is made possible by our sponsors at The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, Friends of Heinz RefugeDucks Unlimited, Pennsylvania Game Commission, William Penn Foundation and National Audubon Society.