Lower Columbia Basin Audubon Society

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McNary Wildlife Refuge
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ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION CENTER at McNARY NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE

Thousands of students experience nature though hands-on learning activities every year at McNary Wildlife Refuge. These opportunities were not available to local schools until dedicated volunteers got together with Refuge management to make it happen.

When the filling of McNary Dam in the 1950s flooded wetlands along the Columbia River, the Corps of Engineers designated land to create McNary National Wildlife Refuge to maintain the flyway accommodating waterfowl migrating across the Columbia Basin. Club members walked the trails of the new Wildlife Refuge in 1956. Among them were birders, environmentalists, and naturalists. All had one thing in common. They were educators and they could see the opportunities to develop an education center. Members of Lower Columbia Basin Audubon Society (LCBAS - affectionately known locally as Elsie Bass) worked with Fish & Wildlife staff to develop the education center. Under the guidelines of the Audubon Refuge Keeper Program (ARK), it became the McNary Environmental Education Center.

The volunteers at the Education Center encourage teachers to bring their classes to the Refuge for hikes (called Nature Safaris), participate in wildlife and Native American studies, and to examine the combined taxidermy wildlife collections of Audubon and those of McNary Fish & Wildlife Service. Initially these were housed in a Refuge storage building. In 1997, an eight-room, two-story building was turned over to volunteers, who dedicated themselves to bringing nature-related science to the public. This effort continues to grow.

Of the volunteers working at the Education Center, a nonprofit organization called Friends of the Mid-Columbia Wildlife Refuges was formed to facilitate interaction between the Wildlife Refuges and the community.

Two male mallards

They are never too young to be shown the wonders of nature.

Virginia Rail

The illusive Virginia Rail seen at McNary Wildlife Refuge

Paula Clark, volunteer, shows a class the tule mat-making techniques.

NOPT

Male Northern Pintail Duck

Preserved insects fascinate children.

Female Mallard with 9 babies

CAQL

Male California Quail

Children get close-up look at a duck

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl perched in tree
Photo by Larry Umthun

RWBL

Red-winged Blackbird

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