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Green means go for new refuge Visitor Center

May 4, 2011
In The News

Juneau County Star Times

By Gail Boehm

The grand opening of the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center Saturday heralded in a new era of harnessing the power of the sun, water and earth.

Several speakers at the ceremony focused on the accomplishments of joining the legacy of refuge conservation with renewable energy in the $3.5 million center funded through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Doug Staller, refuge manager, said, "The [48 kilowatt] photovoltaic system has come on line. It has generated more than 17 megawatt hours of power."

He said the electricity from the solar panels not only powers the Visitor Center and headquarters but is also sold to Dairyland Power Cooperative for local use through Oakdale Electric Cooperative.

According to the interactive displays throughout the center, the building also enlists the use of geothermal wells, which use the heat from the earth to warm and cool the building, passive solar power to heat the building through the windows in the winter and provides lighting with sun tubes.

Metal roofing keeps the building cool in the summer and collects and recycles rainwater to flush toilets.

Outside the boardwalks are made of recycled plastic lumber and the paving tiles are made of recycled plastic and tires.

Greg Siekaniec, acting deputy director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Refuge, said that the Visitor Center made use of the federal funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for the solar cells.

"[It is] showing that renewable energy can be done," he said.

U.S. Congressman Ron Kind, co-chair of the National Wildlife Refuge Caucus in Washington, D.C., said it was a "long haul" for 12 years to have the center completed.

He said, "This could not have happened without the help of senators Feingold and Kohl... Karrie Jackelen [who works with Kind in the La Crosse office] working closely with the refuge and the Friends group."

He said the NNWR Friends Group made a "life commitment" to protect the refuge. He said Wisconsin has a legacy to uphold as Gaylord Nelson, the father of Earth Day, was from Clear Lake.

Larry Wargowsky, retired refuge manager, agreed the project was a long time in coming, too, as it entailed work to have the refuge become the site for the center.

He said, "First we needed public attention, then congressional support, 80 groups to endorse it and then the Visitor Center was built."

He said throughout it all, he and the others were looking toward the future and planning to connect children with the preservation of wildlife and resources, which the new center does through interactive exhibits, viewing wildlife on the walks and outdoor classes.

In addition to a ribbon cutting ceremony for the new headquarters and Visitor Center, the refuge played host to workshops on native landscaping, author Stan Tekiela's presentation on "Uncommon Facts About Birds," "Backyard Landscaping," by Katie Goodwin, "Greening Your Routine," by Dan Peterson," "Birds, Baboons and Baobobs," by Doug Staller, a refuge exploration, fishing and a prescribed burning demonstration.