Urban National Wildlife Refuge Day 2020 • September 29, 2020
Tuesday, September 29, 2020 was Urban National Wildlife Refuge Day! (But we are celebrating all week!)
A day to celebrate, you guessed it, URBAN National Wildlife Refuges! But what constitutes an Urban NWR exactly? And, why are they so special?
Of course, all National Wildlife Refuges are special, but Urban refuges are unique because they experience a variety of challenges and opportunities that rural refuges often do not. Urban National Wildlife Refuges are within 25 miles of a population of 250,000 or more and are open to the public. They are special sanctuaries for wildlife in the middle of largely urbanized areas, providing them with the habitat and resources they need to thrive. They are especially important for migratory birds needing spaces to rest, feed, and nest!
In the greater San Francisco Bay Area, we have seven refuges, of which two are considered Urban. Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge lies at the southern end of the Bay, while San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge lies at the northern end.
Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge is extra special because it is the nation’s FIRST & LARGEST Urban National Wildlife Refuge! Established in 1972, the Refuge now encompasses over 30,000 acres in the South San Francisco Bay. Not only does it protect millions of migratory birds each year, but it also protects the millions of people that live in the South Bay through the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s work maintaining levees and restoring salt ponds back into tidal marsh.
Don Edwards SF Bay NWR provides 15 different habitats for resident threatened and endangered species, as well as resting and nesting areas for migratory birds along the Pacific Flyway. There are also 40 miles of trails (which connect to the Bay Trail!) that provide many recreational opportunities for visitors such as hiking, biking, and wildlife viewing & photography. In Alviso, the Environmental Education Center provides education and interpretation programs to local schools, community groups, and the public.
San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge was established just two years later in 1974, and has some habitats quite similar to Don Edwards but also has unique features and bird species that visit! Working with partner organizations, San Pablo Bay has also undergone large-scale restoration projects, bringing back thousands of acres of tidal marsh, and two resident endangered species: Salt Marsh Harvest Mice, and California Ridgway’s Rails. San Pablo Bay also hosts the largest wintering population of Canvasbacks on the West Coast! Although there is no Visitor Center at San Pablo Bay, there are some great interpretive signs available along the trails that provide great wildlife and habitat conservation information.
Happy Urban National Wildlife Refuge Day! Share your experiences, photographs, and observations of your experiences on these are other National Wildlife Refuges with us! #CommunityInTheWild
To learn more about the Urban Wildlife Conservation Program, visit: https://www.fws.gov/urban/index.php