I can still remember the first Earth Day – I was in freshman biology learning about ecology at that time. I bet I have the original Earth Day button that my teacher Mr. Z. handed out, now squirreled away in some keepsake box in the barn somewhere. Mr. Z., and my own extensive experience in the natural world, made it easy for me to believe that the gift of nature is one that’s worth taking care of – no matter how that care cuts into industrial bottom lines. I am mildly shocked to note that this year’s earth day is the 39th such annual event. I am, however, pleased to learn that National Wildlife Refuges around the country are planning special events in mid-April to mark the celebration.
Earth Day will be celebrated at many of the country’s more than 550 national wildlife refuges, which are dedicated to the protection of our natural habitat and the many creatures that depend on it for survival. The National Wildlife Refuge System, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is the world’s premier system of public lands and waters set aside to conserve America’s fish, wildlife and plant populations. Look for a Wildlife Refuge near you – there is at least one located within an hour of most major cities.
Here is a sampling of Earth Day events on National Wildlife Refuges. For more information on events in your area, visit www.fws.gov/refuges and click on visitors.
Saturday, April 11
Earth Day Litter Pickup
Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge
9 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Join in the refuge’s annual litter pick-up of the roads around the refuge, and enjoy drinks and snacks, compliments of the nonprofit Friends of Blackwater. Individuals, families and groups are welcome. Meet at the Blackwater Visitor Center.
Contact: Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center at 410-228-2677
For more information about the refuge: http://www.fws.gov/blackwater
Saturday, April 18
Earth Day Cleanup and Hike
Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge
Oceanville, New Jersey
8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m.
Join refuge staff and the Township of Galloway for a cleanup along the refuge’s Wildlife Drive. Then go for a short nature walk led by naturalists. Activities are free, but you must pre-register: 609-748-1535. A light lunch will be served. Rain date: Sunday, April 19.
Location: 800 Great Creek Road, Oceanville, N.J.
Contact: Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge at 609-748-1535
For more information about the refuge: http://www.fws.gov/northeast/forsythe
Saturday, April 18
Earth Day Litter Pickup and Bicycle Tour
Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge
Folkston, Georgia - East Entrance
8 a.m. – noon
Join in a cleanup of the refuge and adjacent Highway 121. Then take off on a bicycle tour of Swamp Island Drive. Enjoy staffed exhibits and demonstrations along the way about wildlife, plants, wildland fire, fishing, nature photography, swamp culture, hiking, bicycling, recycling and more. Discover some of the amazing plants and animals found in the refuge. Create nature crafts, see live animals and get a free bicycle safety check. Find out what local organizations do in your community. Learn about what you can do to help protect the earth.
Contact: Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center at 912-496-7836.
For more information about the refuge: http://www.fws.gov/okefenokee
Saturday, April 25
Earth Day Volunteer Day
Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge
9 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Join in a cleanup of the refuge. Then move on to other hands-on projects for all ages. Among these: improving hiking trails and removing invasive garlic mustard.
Contact: Donna Stanley at 812-522-4352 or via email Muscatatuck@fws.gov
For more information about the refuge: http://www.fws.gov/midwest/muscatatuck
Saturday, April 25
Earth Day Boating Tours, Butterfly Viewing and Fishing Lessons
Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge
11 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Enjoy an afternoon of free outdoor activities, hosted by the refuge and the nonprofit Friends of Trinity River Refuge, at the Champion Lake Public Use Area. Activities will include canoeing, kayaking and boating tours; bird and butterfly viewing; walking the levee trail; and dip netting and fishing lessons in the lake for the kids. You may want to bring a lawn chair, as seating is limited.
Location: Champion Lake is located at the end of CR 417, two miles east of FM 1409 in southern Liberty County. This is approximately 10 miles south of Dayton, Texas, from Hwy 90 or about six miles north of I-10 at the Cove exit (FM 565).
Contact: Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge at 936-336-9786
For more information about the refuge: http://www.fws.gov/southwest/refuges/texas/trinityriver
Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper's Farmer magazines. Connect with him on Google+.