Jennifer Owen-White is the first refuge manager of the new Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in Albuquerque. Valle de Oro is the first urban refuge in the Southwest and part of a larger push by U.S. Fish and Wildlife to reach urban audiences and connect them to the important habitats and wildlife that the Service protects. Before taking the position at Valle de Oro, Jennifer was the Refuge Manager at the Santa Ana NWR and also served as the Visitor Service manager for the South Texas Refuge Complex. Jennifer is both a biologist and visitor services specialist. She was born in Chicago, grew up in Houston, has a B.S. in Biology as well as an M.S. in Wildlife Science from Texas Tech, and is completing her PhD in Forestry and Natural Resource Interpretation from Stephen F. Austin State University focusing on connecting urban communities to conservation and the outdoors.
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Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge is unique in many ways. Jennifer sees building a Refuge from former dairy to regenerative wildlife habitat as a collaborative process, “…a chance for community members to see how land goes from a farm that was potentially slated for houses or an industrial facility, to becoming protected, and then see how that protected land gets restored. People will see diverse habitat that really exemplifies the Middle Rio Grande. But right now, they get to see themselves in the planning process. They get to see how conservation really works.”