Monday, August 20, 2001

Building promotes wildlife

Goal is to open Indiana refuge center by 2003

By Randy McNutt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        NORTH VERNON, Ind. — When the National Wildlife Refuge System celebrates its centennial in 2003, southern Indiana will do more than reflect on federal conservation efforts since Theodore Roosevelt's day.

        Indiana will have a sophisticated new learning center at the Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge on U.S. 50.

        Money is being raised. Soon the Muscatatuck Wildlife Society Foundation will receive a $75,000 grant to help build the Conservation Learning Center at the popular wildlife refuge.

        The grant, from the Build Indiana Fund, will help pay for the $1 million center, which will include a 100-seat auditorium.

        The Pulliam Foundation of Indianapolis also recently pledged $150,000.

        It will be completed in 2003 to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the refuge system. The network of federal lands dedicated to conservation was established by Roosevelt to safeguard plants and animals of nearly every type.

        The National Wildlife Refuge Conservation Learning Center will promote the co-existence of wildlife with all living things and the dependence on earth, air and water, said board member Jim Fouts.

        The board was formed in 1997 to oversee plans and raise money for construction.

        Muscatatuck refuge, operated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at 12985 U.S. 50, opened in 1966 to protect endangered species and migratory birds. It attracts more than 185,000 visitors annually and provides conservation education for students and teachers. Many visitors come from Dearborn, Ripley and other southeast Indiana counties.

        The refuge includes several lakes, creeks and a waterfowl sanctuary near the Muscatatuck River. The Myers cabin and barn, built about 1900, have been restored by volunteers to give visitors an idea of what life was like at that time.

        “We've got some good support — $310,000 in the bank account now,” said Mr. Fouts. “The present visitors' center has some exhibits, but it is inadequate for the number of kids we have nowadays. My wife is a kindergarten teacher, and she takes kids there. Some of them have never seen wildlife in the wild.”

        The Muscatatuck Wildlife Society Foundation has been raising money to build the Learning Center, in Jackson and Jennings counties.

        It will have 4,000 square feet and be built next to the visitor center.

        “This will be a place where people of all ages can come together to learn more about conservation and the natural environment,” said Susan Knowles, operations specialist. "It's the best refuge in the area — 8,000 acres. Our friends help us immensely. The place is good for environmental education for people of all ages.”

       For more information, contact the Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge at 812-522-4352.



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