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Week of Thanks: Laura Bankey on Urban Wildlife!

by Laura Bankey, Director of Conservation

Published November 29, 2013

In the spirit of the holiday, our experts are sharing what they’re thankful for this year!

Our fourth “Week of Thanks” post comes from the Aquarium’s Director of Conservation, Laura Bankey

As always, I am grateful to the many volunteers, students, and partners we’ve worked with this year – all working together with the common goal of protecting and restoring the animals and habitats that are vital to the health of our region.

This year, a unique focus has been directed towards wildlife and habitats within our urban boundaries. A new recognition is being placed on our shared space, our shared resources and the need to manage both with care for the benefit of both humans and wildlife.

In particular, the National Aquarium partnered with others in two major efforts this year to help improve and model the restoration and protection of urban wildlife habitat.

Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership: In September of this year the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) launched a new initiative to engage urban communities in wildlife conservation, and officially designated Masonville Cove as the nation’s first Urban Wildlife Refuge.

Masonville Cove

With 80 percent of Americans living in urban areas, FWS identified the need to find innovative ways to share its mission with an expanded audience. This new Refuge system works with conservation organizations, like the National Aquarium, already on the ground in these urban areas to give many more Americans the opportunity to grow up with a real connection to the outdoors and wildlife. Masonville Cove was the first of eight partnerships announced this year.

Community Wildlife Habitat Certification: In partnership with the National Wildlife Federation, the National Aquarium announced a joint effort to certify the city of Baltimore as a Community Wildlife Habitat. This program aims to provide food, shelter, cover and water to local and migrating urban wildlife. The community certification uses the same backyard habitat improvement practices and applies them on a city-wide scale, allowing for much greater impact and improved resources for birds, pollinators, etc.

national aquarium certified wildlife habitat

In Jim Sterba’s book, Nature Wars, he asserts “it is very likely that more people live in closer proximity to more wild animals, birds and trees in the eastern United States today than anywhere on the planet at any time in history.” This is primarily due to the obvious increase in human population of this region over the past 400 years, and not so obviously, to the improved protection and management of natural areas within the same region.

If we value the new connections we can make to wildlife in these urban centers, we need to recognize our responsibility in creating a shared space that benefits both the human and animal communities. This year, I'm thankful to say that with the help of our partners and volunteers, National Aquarium has made many great strides in that direction!

I hope that others will continue to join us in making these important connections with wildlife to urban populations!


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