Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today joined local conservation leaders to announce that Lake Sammamish, Wash., has been chosen as one of eight pilot partnerships nationwide under the Urban Wildlife Refuge Initiative. The partnership will help connect people in the Seattle metro-area to the great outdoors and, in particular, efforts to restore kokanee salmon runs in the Lake Sammamish Watershed.
"Children have become increasingly disconnected from nature," Jewell said. "The Lake Sammamish Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership seeks to reverse this trend by providing meaningful opportunities for urban residents in the region, especially young people, to get outdoors and engage in hands-on learning and conservation of kokanee salmon and its habitat. Building on the strong local partnerships that are at the center of these restoration efforts, the initiative will connect kids with nature, increase understanding of our ecosystem and prepare the next generation of environmental stewards."
The partnership, which has its roots in the Lake Sammamish Kokanee Work Group, is planning to provide classroom education for young people about the efforts to restore declining kokanee salmon runs. The partnership will also conduct field trips to tour fish hatcheries and important habitat for the fish, with a focus on how both the fish and people depend upon a healthy watershed to flourish. The partnership will work with other conservation groups to leverage existing conservation work and outreach into broader efforts to benefit the Seattle metro-area.
Lake Sammamish serves as a gateway to the many rivers, lakes, forests and trails in the Central Cascades for nearby urban residents.
Prior to the announcement, elementary school students from Campbell Hill Elementary School in Renton today released kokanee salmon fry into the Ebright Creek. The kokanee fry release is an annual event sponsored by the Kokanee Work Group. The recent restoration and fish passage projects at Ebright Creek, a tributary of Lake Sammamish, have made it possible for the kokanee to call this place home once more.
"Seattle is one of the most diverse metropolitan areas, and the Lake Sammamish Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership will provide a unique opportunity not only to restore the kokanee but also to demonstrate that a watershed healthy for kokanee is also healthy for people," said U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. "Through the power of partnerships, we hope that what is happening here can serve as a model for other urban cities across the country."
In an attempt to bridge the growing disconnect between young people and the great outdoors, Secretary Jewell last October launched an ambitious youth initiative to inspire millions of young people to play, learn, serve and work outdoors. The goals of the youth initiative include:
Play: Interior will develop or enhance outdoor recreation partnerships in a total of 50 cities over four years to create new, systemic opportunities for outdoor play for more than 10 million young people.
Learn: Provide educational opportunities to at least 10 million of the nation's K-12 student population annually. In addition to welcoming students into nature's classroom, Interior is developing and strengthening new online education resources, to reach more students.
Serve: Engage 1 million volunteers annually on public lands, effectively tripling the current volunteer numbers. Many more people are interested in volunteering at national parks, wildlife refuges and public lands, but there are often insufficient staff resources to coordinate them. In order to achieve the volunteer goal, a renewed emphasis will be placed on volunteer coordination and management.
Work: To develop the next generation of lifelong conservation stewards and ensure our own skilled and diverse workforce pipeline, Interior will provide 100,000 work & training opportunities to young people and veterans within our bureaus and through public-private partnerships. As part of this effort, the Department aims to raise an additional $20 million from private and corporate donors to support the youth work and training opportunities.
President Obama's budget released last month proposes $50.6 million for Interior youth programs, which represents a $13.6 million (or 37 percent) increase from 2014. Included in the budget is an increase of $2.5 million for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Urban Wildlife Refuge Initiative, $8 million to expand opportunities for youth education and employment across the National Park Service and an additional $1 million in the Bureau of Indian Affairs for youth programs.