Refuge again has friendly face to greet the public
Posted 12/07/10 (Tue)
Local connection to the Des Lacs National Wildlife Refuge . . .
Jennifer Jewett, new travel specialist and education and outreach
coordinator for the Souris River Basin Complex, welcomes visitors
and area residents of all ages to the Des Lacs refuge.
By Caroline Downs
The Des Lacs National Wildlife Refuge, just across the lake from Kenmare, has a friendly face to directly welcome the public again with Jennifer Jewett, travel specialist and education and outreach coordinator for the Souris River Basin Complex.
“I want people in the community to know there’s someone up front now,” she said, laughing. “The door’s not going to be locked when everybody’s out in the field!”
Jewett replaces Janet Leet, a longtime administrative specialist with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service at the Des Lacs Refuge who retired. Because of budget concerns, Leet’s former position went unfilled for more than two years, and residents of Kenmare noticed.
“They were really needing someone to be here to greet the public,” said Jewett, who moved from the Upper Souris NWR to the Des Lacs refuge office earlier this fall. “The refuge image was suffering.”
Most national wildlife refuges are situated far from towns and cities, and Jewett noted Kenmare’s unique situation. “We refuge people aren’t usually in tune with the community being this close,” she said. “Now, there’s someone here to answer questions and to answer the phone.”
One of her first duties involved the “Goose on the Loose” activity for kids and adults during Kenmare’s GooseFest week in October. For the first time in several years, the Des Lacs refuge participated by dressing a goose decoy as “Teddy Goosevelt.” Jewett enjoyed meeting families as they visited the office to find the goose for the contest.
Jewett plans to develop events and outreach opportunities in response to the public’s interest. “There’s someone here now to organize education and outreach events,” she said. “If someone wants a certain program, I want to know and I want to organize it!”
Jewett is interested in working with formal and informal groups, organizations and individuals on topics related to their interests. She has attended Kenmare Association of Commerce meetings to extend the invitation for local groups, and she wants teachers and other school officials to know she’s available to work with their students or host them at the refuge. She is also working on advertising the area’s extraordinary birding opportunities at a national level to attract more visitors.
“Kenmare is really close-knit,” she said as she described other community events she and husband Andy, a biological technician at the Des Lacs NWR, have attended in the months they have lived in town. “They like to provide opportunities for their residents, and I’d like to be part of that, too.”
Jewett is already talking about scheduling wildflower walks, providing handicapped accessible access or transportation for individuals with those needs, continuing to coordinate events with the Kenmare Branch Library for the summer reading program, and working with the GooseFest Committee and Ducks Unlimited volunteers on the always-popular Greenwing Day held at the Boat Dock area.
She is considering a nature journaling program with local artists and writers, as well as looking into the possibility of offering photography classes and networking with local birders to coordinate more guided bird hikes during the spring and summer.
The refuge will soon begin posting announcements, activities, discussion groups and photos online on a Facebook page, and Jewett was enthusiastic about the potential for connecting with even more people interested in the area. “It’s a way for us to get the word out there,” she said. “If that’s where people are and we can reach them, then we’ll use it!”
Other responsibilities have involved responding to comments and results from the final report done in 2006 for a comprehensive visitor survey for the Souris River Loop National Wildlife Refuges. She noted that while the Upper Souris and J. Clark Salyer refuges were used more for hunting and fishing, visitors at the Des Lacs refuge had a different focus.
“Des Lacs is used more for nature and wildlife viewing,” she said, “for birdwatching and people just driving to check out the landscape. I need to develop programs that involve birdwatching and talk about our management here, in an environment where people can come and enjoy nature. Maybe I need to organize programs for people to see areas [of the refuge] they don’t normally get to see.”
She learned from the survey that the refuge was rated poorly for availability of information. To that end, Jewett is looking into establishing better signs for the Auto Tour Route through the city of Kenmare so visitors can more easily connect the Lower Lake drive with the Boat Dock road. She also wants to expand the ways printed information is made accessible to people who stop at the refuge.
“We have those things here at the office and the entryway is open 24 hours,” she said, referring to the large stand of full-color brochures and pamphlets set up just inside the west doors of the refuge headquarters. “But maybe we also need kiosks in other areas, like the wildlife observation areas and the Boat Dock area.”
She continued, “I’d also like to develop an activity brochure so people know exactly what we have to offer. Then maybe they’ll want to return and do more!”
She also pointed out several new displays now available in the refuge Visitors Center, installed during the past few months and including original artwork that specifically highlights flora and fauna of the Kenmare and Gooseneck region.
Des Lacs Refuge to celebrate
its 75th anniversary Tuesday
Local residents can see those changes for themselves by attending one or both events that Jewett has scheduled for Tuesday.
The Des Lacs NWR will celebrate its 75th anniversary on Tuesday, December 14, from 3 to 5 pm with an open house and variety of activities for the entire family. The 20,000-acre Refuge was established in 1935 as a “Refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife”.
On the 14th, the Refuge will have an afternoon of history and wildlife demonstrations, visitor center tours, kids’ activities, and refreshments.
Kids are welcome to come and participate in the “design a creature mask” they can take home.
Refuge staff will make presentations and provide information about the National Wildlife Refuge System, native flora and fauna, and the history of the Des Lacs NWR and the city of Kenmare. Come learn why, 75 years ago, it was a banner year for the establishment of 27 Refuges, most in the country’s mid-section and examine how the Civilian Conservation Corps, or CCC, played a significant role in the establishment of the Refuge.
This will be an excellent opportunity to visit the Refuge and learn more about what is taking place to help with the recovery of five declining grassland bird species, contributing to critical biological research on the prairies, and why the Refuge has been a gathering spot for people and wildlife throughout time.
The Refuge will also host the annual Christmas Bird Count the same morning beginning at 7:30 am, and everyone is invited to participate. Be prepared with warm clothes, boot and binoculars. Beginning and advanced birders are welcome!
Throughout the afternoon, hot coffee, cake and other refreshments will be served.
For more information or a schedule of activities, please call the Refuge headquarters at 701-385-4046. Jewett has extension 221 at that phone number and can also be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.