When the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service launched the Urban Wildlife Conservation Program in 2012, it had one vision: to bring wildlife viewing and outdoor exploration to ten demographically and geographically varied cities across America by 2015. The service surpassed those expectations this summer. There are now 14 Urban Wildlife Refuges—classified as regional priorities—that connect 80 percent of Americans living in cities to wild places, from the bayou of New Orleans to the Detroit River.
“It’s a change in the way we operate so that a larger metropolitan audience can access, enjoy, and experience wildlife in its native environment,” says Teri Jillson, president at Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge in Albuquerque, in a USFWS video. “Somehow we’ve lost a little bit of touch with the environment, and we need to reconnect.”
Photographer Ian Shive had the opportunity to explore these wildlife refuges and document those reconnections between the urban and the environment by teaming up with Los Angeles-based photography agency Tandem Stock. Here, he shares some of his most memorable experiences with us.