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San Diego Wildlife Refuge Gets $1M In Federal Funding For Youth Outreach

A great egret wades along the east shore of the San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Imperial Beach, June, 17, 1999.
Associated Press
A great egret wades along the east shore of the San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Imperial Beach, June, 17, 1999.

Teaching youth in urban communities about outdoor conservation is the goal of a new federal initiative. The U.S. Secretary of the Interior visited San Diego on Wednesday to talk about the $1 million in funding the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge Complex will be receiving as part of the initiative by the U.S. Department of the Interior.

San Diego's wildlife complex is the nation's first urban refuge to be awarded outreach funding through a nationwide competition.

The refuge complex covers 16,000 acres from San Diego to the South Bay and Tijuana slough. Visitors to the complex can learn about what plants, animals and birds are found along the shore.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell says the goal for the initiative is to get 10 million kids from underserved communities to embrace conservation and outdoor activities.

"From teaching urban youth about the magnificence of the California condor to unlocking opportunities to explore nature along the Los Angeles River, the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge Complex is a model of how we can leverage innovative partnerships to connect new and diverse audiences to the great outdoors," Jewell said. "This dedicated funding will help engage the next generation of conservationists while also strengthening connections between the community and these public lands that belong to all Americans."

Raul Lopez graduated from high school in San Diego this past spring and plans to study biology in college. He participates in the Youth Conservation Corps at the refuge center, one of the programs the complex offers to get kids involved in outdoor conservation.

"For me, it's being outdoors and getting dirty and actually helping the environment by removing invasive species and making a difference that you will be able to see in the future," Lopez said.

Locally, the funding for will go to the Living Coast Discovery Center for programs that instruct the next generation of environmental scientists and develop skills in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics; the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, to train teachers and students to use cutting-edge science to solve conservation problems; and Earth Discovery Institute to build a cadre of young technology-savvy environmental stewards and expand service opportunities for volunteers.

The Los Angeles Conservation Corps will also benefit from the award.