The future success of conservation in America ultimately depends on the ability to inspire its citizenry to connect with the outdoors and become stewards of the environment. Over 80% of Americans now live in urban areas and are spending less time outdoors than previous generations. Further, the makeup of our citizenry is changing as the American public is becoming more ethnically and racially diverse at a rate few anticipated. But with an increasing and changing population, our conservation challenges are growing and becoming more complex, threatening the sustainability of the natural resources upon which the human population depends. How do words like ecology, sustainability, and conservation regain their relevancy in the daily lives of the American public?
We have to engage urban and diverse audiences in the conservation and sustainability movement. Developed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and partners, the Urban Wildlife Refuge Program was created to engage urban and diverse communities as partners in wildlife conservation. Eight “standards of excellence” were developed to help the USFWS further accomplish its mission which is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. In this presentation I will address how the scope of the problem demands an equally diverse solution that starts with changes in recruitment and retention practices in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics fields and carry over into hiring practices within natural resource agencies and into the programs and services they offer to the general public.