The event marking what many consider the birth of the modern environmental movement turns 39 this month, and we’re all invited to the party. Since the first Earth Day in 1970, the movement has grown global in scale, with 174 countries involved and an estimated 1 billion people participating on some level. Created to build awareness of the fragility of the Earth’s environment and inspire ordinary people to help conserve and protect our natural resources, there are multiple ways to participate. One of our favorites is to explore and lend a hand at one of the country’s more than 550 national wildlife refuges. Dedicated to the protection of our natural habitat and the creatures dependent on it for survival, not only are there national wildlife refuges within an hour’s drive of most major cities, but many conduct year-round education programs as well. Managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Wildlife Refuge System is a world-class system of public lands and waters set aside to conserve our nation’s fish, wildlife and plants.
Following is a sampling of Earth Day events planned for National Wildlife Refuges. (For more information on events in your area, visit www.fws.gov/refuges and click on “visitors.”)
Saturday, April 18
Earth Day Cleanup and Hike
Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge – Oceanville, N.J.
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: www.fws.gov/northeast/forsythe
Saturday, April 18
Earth Day Litter Pickup and Bicycle Tour
Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge – Folkston, GA. – 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 fires, fishing, nature photography, swamp culture, hiking, bicycling, recycling and more.
Contact: Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center at 912-496-7836.
For more information about the refuge: www.fws.gov/okefenokee
Saturday, April 25
Earth Day Volunteer Day
Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge – Seymour, Ind.
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 plants.
Contact: Donna Stanley at 812-522-4352 or via email Muscatatuck@fws.gov
For more information about the refuge: www.fws.gov/midwest/muscatatuck
Saturday, April 25
Earth Day Boating Tours, Butterfly Viewing and Fishing Lessons
Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge – Dayton, Texas
11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
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. (Seating is limited, so bring a chair).
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: www.fws.gov/southwest/refuges/texas/trinityriver