In a ceremony outside the Visitor’s Center, attended by Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and other dignitaries, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe announced that the Service will invest an additional $1 million annually in the Refuge.
“That’s not a one-time grant, that’s $1 million that will be here this year, it will be here next year, and it will be here the years following that,” he said. “And that money is going to support additional work here, it’s going to support additional work in educating young children, it’s going to support additional work in connecting the surrounding communities to the refuge.”
Three years ago, recognizing that 80% of Americans live in urban and suburban environments, the USFWS launched the Urban Wildlife Conservation Program. Yesterday, Heinz Refuge – America’s First Urban Refuge – became its latest Million Dollar Refuge.
The money will allow the Refuge to continue and expand the environmental education program it started last year in three Philadelphia schools. Other priorities include working with surrounding communities to promote conservation and nature, connecting them with green spaces.
On the Refuge, the grant will make possible new signs on the trails, new displays for the Visitor Center, and a host of other projects. The small staff – dedicated, talented and enthusiastic, but undermanned and overworked – will be getting much needed reinforcements in the form of additional personnel.
If you’ve followed my blog for any time, you know that no matter how far I wander, I always come back to Heinz Refuge. In the past years I’ve made friends here, volunteered here, and gotten involved with the Friends of Heinz Refuge who do so much to support the Refuge. I’ve made my own investment of time, and actual blood, sweat and tears, to make my home-away-from-home a better place. Which is why I can’t wipe the silly grin off my face.