¬†¬†¬†¬† The National Audubon Society, long known for its work to protect our bird populations, has launched an exciting new initiative that¬†is helping¬†not only birds, but¬†thousands of people as well.¬†
¬†¬†¬†¬† For the last few years, Audubon has been establishing nature centers right in the middle of some of our largest cities.¬†¬†As¬†many cities have grown¬†in population and sprawl over the last¬† decades, birds have had an increasingly difficult time finding the habitat they require.¬† And many urban areas are hostile to migrating birds.¬† As they fly through urban areas, the birds¬†cannot find the trees, shrubs, and grassland they need, and so¬†are forced to land on concrete and metal.
¬†¬†¬†¬† The six¬†urban nature centers Audubon has created so far–in Phoenix, Brooklyn, Seattle, Los Angeles, Dallas,¬†and Columbus–¬†demonstrate that¬†a wasted industrial site can be transformed into a productive¬†ecosystem teeming with¬†life, even in the middle of a big city!¬†¬† In the heart of downtown Phoenix, for example,¬†a landfill was replaced with a natural Sonoran Desert habitat that attracts more than 200 species of birds and other animals.¬† Species once seen only rarely in the area, like owls, roadrunners, hawks, herons, and hummingbirds, are now common sights there.¬†¬†The¬†newly created¬†habitat includes an environmentally friendly structure, in which adults and kids alike can learn about the flora and fauna native to their area.
¬†¬†¬†¬† Another¬†urban nature center, New York City’s¬†Prospect Park Audubon Center, is housed in an historic¬†landmark boathouse in Brooklyn.¬† Around the building, natural habitat has been carefully restored.¬† As a result,¬†hundreds of bird species have been spotted, including such rare birds as the pied-billed grebe and the American bittern.¬†¬†The Center includes a cafe, interactive exhibits,¬†a nature theater, and a¬†learning lab.
¬†¬†¬†¬† In the cities where urban nature centers have been established, adults and children alike have been¬†observing the birds and wildlife¬†there.¬† That’s a¬†good thing, maintains Judy Braus, Audubon’s senior vice-president for Education and Centers.¬† Since most Americans today do live in cities,¬†many, many peoople¬†have little contact with nature.¬† But by visiting a¬†nature center close to home, city dwellers can gain an awareness of the wealth and beauty of living things that surround them, and have an enriching experience, Braus explains.¬†
¬†¬†¬†¬† Braus is especially pleased that the urban nature centers are increasing children’s opportunities to experience nature.¬†¬†“We are especially worried that children raised in urban settings will grow up with no appreciation of or connection to the natural world,”¬†she explains.¬† “And if our children have no appreciation for the value of nature,” she asks, “what will the future hold for our birds and wildlife?”¬† She is hopeful that by providing young people with greater access to nature,¬†¬†these urban nature centers will help stimulate and develop a new generation of conservation leaders for the future.¬†–April Moore