Tag Archives: urban wildlife refuge partnership

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.

Downtown, in the park, at the refuge — discovering nature anywhere and everywhere

Michael Bonilla - FWS photoAs #LatinoConservationWeek marches on, we share a reflection on summer at the Rhode Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex, written by Hispanic Access Foundation intern Michael Bonilla.

As an intern with the Hispanic Access Foundation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service I have built some strong connections to our local and state wildlife. Gratefully, through the wildlife refuge system in Rhode Island, I have come to understand that I don’t need to visit the rain forest to experience nature. So far, it has been an inspiring experience to get to work with so many scientists that are so passionate about the protection and conservation of wildlife — from wetland and salt marsh habitats to birds such as saltmarsh sparrows to piping plovers. Thus, participating in the environmental education program I get to inform and help bridge a connection between kids and their natural, wild surroundings.


On the other hand, I’ve also had the opportunity to work with the Providence Parks Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership (PPUWRP). It has been an eye-opening experience, participating in environmental initiatives in the city of Providence, RI to connect urban communities with parks as natural settings. My goal with PPUWRP is to provide support and educational programming for families and to use parks and local green spaces to educate and to spark interest in the wildlife refuge.


Whether we are in the woods away from city or in the middle of downtown, there are learning and connection opportunities that community members can build with nature. From counting oyster catchers in Sandy Point Island to carrion beetles in a park right in the city, this internship has allowed me to realize that conservation and natural experiences can take place anywhere, and that all the members of a community can conserve our local ecosystems and habitats.

For Latino Conservation Week (July 16-24), Michael will be leading a week-long summer camp called Urban Explorers where kids can discover nature in neighborhoods, parks, green spaces and backyards.

Nia Edwards ties Baltimore Latinos to resources at Masonville Cove

In the early 2000s, there was a need to clean up the Baltimore Harbor and dredge material (wood, mud, silt, sand, shell, and debris) from the seafloor. From that project and a robust coalition of partners, Masonville Cove was restored and Masonville Cove Environmental Education Center was born. Located on a restored site along the Patapsco River, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service dubbed Masonville Cove one of the nation’s first Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnerships in September 2013. The partnership and education center have since served as a place for local residents and schoolchildren in Baltimore to connect with nature and participate in meaningful stewardship projects. The adjacent communities of Brooklyn and Curtis Bay are geographically isolated and face challenges such as income inequality, concentrated poverty, limited public transportation, high crime, and low high school graduation rates. Today we continue our celebration of Latino Conservation Week with a post written by Nia Edwards, featuring some of the work she’s done to help residents of South Baltimore discover nature in the Chesapeake Bay.


My name is Nia Edwards…

and I am a graduating senior at Towson University double majoring in Spanish and international studies. I am the Latino community outreach liaison working with Hispanic Access Foundation, Living Classrooms and Masonville Cove to serve the local community in South Baltimore. I am responsible for providing the local Latino community with engaging events and materials and bilingual programming in English and Spanish, to foster a better relationship with Masonville Cove and build awareness about environmental conservation. By translating resources to Spanish and offering events in both languages, I help open up the lines of communication and increase accessibility to Masonville Cove resources for members of the local Latino community. For example in February, I led a community program on watersheds that focused on waste management and the impacts of urban debris on our watersheds. We also participated in Project Clean Stream, a Maryland-wide initiative to tackle trash in and around state waterways.


A reminder that litter negatively impacts wildlife and our environment

Although serving the community is a very fulfilling job, it was initially very challenging for me to address environmental issues with local communities.The environment appeared to take a backseat to basic needs such as housing, food and jobs. Aside from these socioeconomic factors , language also plays a large role and is a barrier when engaging these communities.


Our first clean-up with the community was a lot of fun and seemed to successfully address a lot of these barriers. It was eventful, well-attended, and incorporated a lot of giveaways, while providing food and a safe space for community members to get together. During our Brooklyn clean-up, we served over 100 members and the feedback from the event was fulfilling. We had a free recycling bin giveaway for Baltimore City residents, and provided an opportunity for kids and their families to decorate their bins. Our biggest giveaway, and the one that the community volunteers seemed to enjoy the most, was a free year-long membership to the aquarium. Valued at $125, the winner and their family gained free entry to the aquarium and access to exclusive aquarium events.


Events like these are a reminder of the good work we are doing and continue to do at Masonville Cove. Our goal to bring awareness and create a safe space for community members, specifically in the Latino community is constantly met during these events. For Latino Conservation Week, Nia will be leading a community event at Masonville called “Nosotros Conservamos” which will include a shoreline cleanup, fishing, and a nature walk.

Next, this week, we’ll hear from Hispanic Access Foundation intern Michael Bonilla as he strives to connect Providence, RI residents to green spaces in their communities.