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Masonville Cove Designated as Nation’s First Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership


Today, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) joined National Aquarium, government officials and community members to formally announce Masonville Cove as the nation’s first Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership. 

“National wildlife refuges are the best of America’s wild places, but many are not near major metropolitan areas. Most Americans have grown up without a real connection to the outdoors and wildlife, and the Urban Wildlife Refuge Initiative gives us a chance to change that,” said Dan Ashe, Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “We believe these unique urban partnerships can inspire the imagination and create a connected conservation constituency of people who are aware, understand and support fish and wildlife conservation.”

USFWS manages more than 560 national wildlife refuges and 150 million acres across America. Refuges are the best of America’s wild places, protecting iconic species such as Florida panther, loggerhead sea turtles, and Canada lynx. But they are mostly in rural areas. With 80 percent of Americans living in cities, the Service is piloting a new type of refuge partnership to forge connections between the National Wildlife Refuge System, natural resource conservation, and urban communities.

Through the Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership program, USFWS is joining forces with local, urban conservation counterparts. Dozens of worthy applications were submitted for official recognition, and eight partnerships were accepted for designation and support.

The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and The Chesapeake Bay Trust will donate a total of $55,000 in support of the partnership. 

“National Aquarium is working to engage students and other local citizens in the process of habitat restoration,” said Eric Schwaab, National Aquarium Senior Vice President/Chief Conservation Officer, “We are thrilled to be a part of this unique project – one that highlights the importance of creating and supporting a home for wildlife within an urban center, one that helps bring opportunities to connect with wildlife to urban populations, and one that supports all of the communities that share this space.”

The Masonville Cove Nature Area was opened in 2012 on a restored site owned by the Maryland Port Administration on the Patapsco River, allowing public access to the cove for the first time in over 70 years. The nature area offers opportunities within the city limits for walking, fishing, bird watching and other recreational activities. Currently 11 acres of the nature area are open to the public and, after further restoration; 52 acres will be open to the public. National Aquarium helps lead community-based restoration efforts on the sight, engaging more than 1,000 volunteers in planting more than 45,000 native plants along the shoreline so far, including a wetland restoration event just last week.

For more information about National Aquarium’s work at Masonville Cove, please visit:

National Aquarium will be hosting another habitat restoration opportunity at the Cove next Spring. Sign up for our e-newsletter to keep up-to-date on these and other volunteer opportunities!