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Celebrating National Urban Biodiversity Week

Sunday marked the beginning of the first-ever National Urban Biodiversity Week, a seven-city collaboration to bring urban dwellers into contact with local flora and fauna, from fungi to salamanders to old growth forests. The week-long series boasts dozens of events including lectures, nature walks, art projects, and children’s programs, in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Boston, and Seattle.

National Urban Biodiversity Week evolved from New York City Wildflower Week, a 10-day annual event now in its fifth year. The event is sponsored by Nature Block Party, a non-profit organization, in partnership with Project Noah, an interactive web and mobile application that enables users to track wildlife sightings, and the National Wildlife Federation, a grassroots conservation advocacy organization.

According to Marielle Anzelone, the event’s founder, the goals of National Urban Biodiversity Week are to:

  • Create an urban constituency for nature by connecting people through hands-on opportunities
  • Build a national conversation around urban biodiversity issues
  • Encourage new ways of thinking about urban environments

Creatures from gray squirrels to roosting red tailed hawks remind us that nature is everywhere (the Project Noah sightings for New York alone show species as diverse as great egrets in Prospect Park to osage-orange in Inwood Hill Park).  Events like those that comprise Urban Biodiversity Week highlight opportunities for ordinary citizens to protect urban wildlife; we can create and improve urban habitats in our parks and community gardens as well as street medians, roof gardens, and window planters.

Engaged urban constituents can also support large-scale habitat conservation and improvement. For example:

  • In response to community priorities, the current plan for the new downtown waterfront park in Seattle includes marine features to provide safe passage for salmon.
  • The volunteer-supported Native Plant Nurseries program sponsored by the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy propagates approximately 270,000 native plants per year to aid restoration projects within the park, maintaining the quality and integrity of the Bay Area’s protected natural lands.
  • In recent years, private advocacy and fundraising has supported urban conservation land acquisitions across the country.  Last fall, The Trust for Public Land led efforts to conserve a 570 acre parcel 5 miles from downtown Albuquerque in partnership with the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The new Middle Rio Grande National Wildlife Refuge will protect critical habitat of the endangered southwestern willow flycatcher and provide new recreational opportunities for over one million local residents.