Seeking to expand opportunities for young girls nationwide to experience nature and explore careers in wildlife conservation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Girls Inc. has signed a historic partnership agreement. The agreement commits the two organizations to work together to help girls, particularly those from communities of color and urban areas traditionally underrepresented in natural resource conservation fields, to explore conservation and natural resource management.
Service Deputy Director Steve Guertin, who signed the agreement on behalf of the agency, called it an enormous step forward in the organization’s efforts to reach new audiences and introduce the next generation of young Americans to their natural heritage and the importance of conserving it.
“We face enormous conservation challenges as we work to protect and sustain the world’s wildlife and natural landscapes for future generations. To meet these challenges we must engage the next generation in conservation and help them understand the stake they have in healthy air, water and land,” said Guertin. “Girls Inc. has long worked to empower girls to succeed, and we’re excited to work with them to prepare the nation’s young women to help sustain our natural heritage for future generations.”
The more than 8,000 employees of the Service have developed strong roots in communities across the nation. Many play an active role in local youth organizations as parents, group leaders and mentors.
The partnership agreement signed between the Service and Girls Inc. will formally expand those natural ties, committing the two organizations to work together at a community level to develop education programs, hands-on conservation projects and training, and encourage young women to pursue careers in wildlife conservation and other science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.
“Girls Inc. is thrilled to partner with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to further our commitment of providing girls with meaningful STEM experiences,” said Judy Vredenburgh, Girls Inc. President and CEO. “Our partnership will ensure girls – especially those in underserved communities – have opportunities to learn about and contribute to the conservation of natural resources and wildlife through engaging hands-on activities.”
Growing urbanization and advances in technology are making it harder for young people to develop a personal connection to nature. The youth of today are the leaders and voters of tomorrow, and Service Director Dan Ashe noted that without such a connection, they are much less likely to understand or support the need for conservation and protection of native wildlife and habitat.
Girls Inc. provides girls across the U.S. and Canada with life-changing experiences each year, inspiring them to be strong, smart and bold – qualities that will help them be healthy and successful adults. A big part of the Girls Inc. curriculum involves spending time in the outdoors and learning about nature. With 565 national wildlife refuges spanning more than 150 million acres – many within an hour’s drive of a major metropolitan area – as well as hundreds more national fish hatcheries, field offices and other facilities located in every state, the Service can provide these girls with places to learn about nature and experts to guide them.
The new partnership complements similar partnership efforts now underway in communities across the nation.
The United States is not just becoming more urban; it is also becoming more diverse. That’s why the Service and the Department of the Interior have made connecting urban, youth and families from diverse backgrounds to nature a high priority. In cities where national wildlife refuges are located close by, refuge staff are partnering with community groups to bring young people to the refuge and expand opportunities for them to learn about nature and natural resource careers.
In cities where the Service lacks a land base, the agency has developed more than a dozen urban wildlife conservation partnerships, to engage community organizations and leaders. These partnerships are now operating in cities such as Atlanta, Georgia; Springfield, Massachusetts; Baltimore, Maryland; Houston, Texas; and Anchorage, Alaska.
In addition, the Service has developed partnerships with other leading organizations, including the League of United Latino American Citizens (LULAC), and Phi Beta Sigma, Inc. and Zeta Phi Beta, Inc. – two of the nation’s oldest and largest historically black fraternities and sororities to help engage Latino and African-American youth in conservation and STEM-related careers.
For more information on the historic partnership agreement between the Service and Girls Inc., as well as the agency’s Urban Wildlife Conservation Program, please visit www.fws.gov.